Picture this: It’s early morning and you’ve enjoyed a brisk walk to work in the crisp autumn air. You sign in for your shift at a manufacturing facility and are asked to start unloading containers of liquids into your organisation’s warehouse. While moving a container, your hand slips and the lid comes off because it wasn't properly secured. Liquid not only falls all over the floor, but onto your clothes and hands as well.
What do you do in this situation? Are you aware of what substances used by your organisation are hazardous to health? Did your manager communicate them to you? What protocols should you follow to avoid potential harm?
Situations like these are ones that every employee and employer want to avoid. Employers have the responsibility to inform workers about hazardous substances in the workplace. They’re required to provide proper training on how to handle these substances safely.
Additionally, employers should explain the necessary steps to take in case of accidental exposure. If not, the previous situation could be your reality, resulting in potentially dangerous consequences for your team and organisation.
Read on to discover:
- What are substances hazardous to health?
- What are substances hazardous to health covered by COSHH?
- Which hazardous substances does COSHH not cover?
- What is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations?
- Why is control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) important?
- How does Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) promote safety?
- What now?
What are substances hazardous to health?
Let's start at the very beginning: what are substances hazardous to health? Substances hazardous to health are those which have the potential to harm an individual. These substances can come in several different forms, depending on the material itself and the task being carried out.
It’s the employer’s responsibility to know all substances hazardous to health risks their workers could come into contact with and communicate this to all the appropriate individuals. One way to do this is by looking at the hazard pictograms found on product labels as well as their corresponding safety data sheets.
Find out more about what these different pictograms mean in our blog: Hazard Pictograms and What They Mean.
What are the substances hazardous to health covered by COSHH?
There are many substances hazardous to health covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). COSHH substances are identified by the potential to cause harm because of their associated health hazards. A substance that might not normally be considered hazardous can become harmful depending on the way it is being used.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, these substances can come in the form of gases, dusts, vapours, fumes, mists, chemicals, products containing chemicals, as well as biological hazards that may cause an illness:
This includes substances where a workplace exposure limit or WEL is given and where the way it is used could pose a health hazard. Radioactive substances and those containing lead can be assessed under COSHH however, they also have their own specific regulations.
Which hazardous substances does COSHH not cover?
Asbestos is not covered by COSHH. As seen above, radioactive substances and those containing lead can be assessed under COSHH however, they also have their own respective legislations which should be addressed.
What are the Control of Substances to Health (COSHH) regulations?
Protecting your workforce from substances hazardous to health is mandatory under COSHH regulations, if you are located in the United Kingdom. These regulations are simply a set of rules which are designed to protect workers from exposure to hazardous substances. Get a more detailed look at these COSHH regulations.
What do you need to do to fulfil these requirements? Get your questions answered now with our Stay Compliant with COSHH Regulations infographic.
Why is Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) important?
First introduced over 30 years ago, COSHH regulations were put in place to go into more detail on the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This act only provided vague guidance on protecting employees from hazardous substances in the workplace.
COSHH compliance is paramount to anyone who is responsible for the well-being of a team of employees, as it helps to control any hazards or risks that may arise when working with dangerous substances. COSHH is also important because it’s mandatory and a legal requirement.
Your organisation could face hefty fines if it’s not compliant with regulations and even prosecution if a dangerous exposure event occurs.
How does Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) promote safety?
So just how does COSHH promote safety? It provides clear steps on what actions are needed to prevent hazardous workplace exposures, leading to a safer and happier work environment. As mentioned in the previous section on COSHH regulations, COSHH outlines the duties of an employer and exactly what is expected of them.
By identifying all hazardous substances, conducting COSHH risk assessments, providing employee training and more, COSHH aims to reduce the number of illnesses and incidents on site relating to substances hazardous to health. Being COSHH compliant will help elevate the standard of health and safety at your organisation and show your employees and other businesses that you take the health and safety of your teams seriously.
Now that you know more about the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) and how it’s designed to create a safer work environment, it’s time to dive into COSHH management and how to build a successful COSHH chemical management system.
Explore all of this and more in The Ultimate Guide to COSHH Management.