What is the meaning of COSHH? | EcoOnline
5 black barrels with blue shapes to signify COSHH management

What is COSHH?

From the meaning of COSHH to how to write a COSHH Risk assessment, get ready to explore COSHH from all angles with EcoOnline. 

Find the answers to your COSHH management questions now! 

What is COSHH?

Whether you’re looking for more information on COSHH or a way to streamline COSHH management, you’re in the right place!  

One of the first questions you might be asking yourself is what does COSHH stand for? COSHH means Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. This refers to a law in the United Kingdom which provides guidance to employers on how to protect employees from exposure to substances hazardous to health.  

When was COSHH introduced? COSHH was originally put in place to offer more detail to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, over 30 years ago. It has now evolved to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH regulations 2002), which all UK organisations must follow to create a safer working environment. There are a number of COSHH regulations which employers must fulfil, including regulations 6-13.  

You might be wondering what this has to do with you - why is COSHH important? It’s essential that employers and employees follow these regulations to efficiently: 

  • protect teams from injuries and illnesses 
  • remain compliant with UK regulations  
  • avoid hefty fines that could cost you – one organisation was fined £800,000 when three employees developed a lung condition because they were exposed to mist from metal fluid  

Discover everything you need to know about COSHH in our comprehensive resource, The Ultimate Guide to COSHH Management: Your Roadmap to Mastering Chemical Safety.  

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Chapter 1

What are your COSHH responsibilities?

A person in a hazmat suit kneeling by bottles of chemicals in a warehouse

Every employer’s priority is keeping their employees safe; however, is COSHH entirely the responsibility of the employer? No! It’s a common misconception that all COSHH responsibilities fall solely on the employer. Both the employer and employees have responsibilities they need to fulfil.  

COSHH employer’s responsibilities range from conducting COSHH risk assessments to training employees on how to handle substances hazardous to health, while COSHH responsibilities of employees include (but are not limited to) following all procedures and control measures put in place to always reporting hazards and risks they see in the workplace.  

To find out more about COSHH employee's responsibilities and COSHH employer responsibilities, read our blog, COSHH Uncovered: Embracing Your COSHH Responsibilities. 

Chapter 2

What does COSHH identify as hazardous substances?

Two workers wearing hazmat suits on a roof

One of the first elements important to understand to fulfil your COSHH responsibilities is what are COSHH hazardous substances? Under COSHH, substances hazardous to health are materials which could harm individuals. This could be because the substances themselves have associated COSHH hazards. These COSHH chemicals could also be considered harmful depending on the way they are being used. 

COSHH substances could come in several forms which range from gases to biological hazards. So, what is not covered by COSHH? There are certain materials that COSHH does not cover which you should be aware of.  

To find out what they are, how many steps are there to COSHH compliance, and more, read our blog Substances Hazardous to Health: What You Need to Know About COSHH. 

Chapter 3

COSHH hazard symbols

Hazard pictogram images with symbols in red shapes to show different warning symbols

One way to identify whether substances are harmful is to look at their respective COSHH labels or COSHH pictograms. There are 9 standard COSHH symbols which represent potential hazards. Hazard pictograms were created so people around the world could rely on a single system to recognise harmful hazards 

Every symbol depicts a specific health hazard and can be found within section 2 of your COSHH safety data sheet. Discover more about COSHH symbols and meanings, COSHH labelling, and other COSHH elements in our blog, Hazard Pictograms and What They Mean. 

Chapter 4

What is a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL)

Worker outside kneeling on the ground and holding a vial

Another key element to hazardous substances is workplace exposure limits. Workplace exposure limits, also known as an occupational exposure limit, are levels of safe exposure to a hazardous substance in the air. Your employees could experience serious health effects if exposed to certain chemicals for too long. That’s why regulations have been put in place in to protect your people from harm. 

These regulations include setting certain limits of exposure. This could range from Short Term Exposure Limits (STELS) of around 15 minutes to Long Term Exposure Limits of about 8 hours.  

Dive into key elements of this topic in our blog, What is a Workplace Exposure Limit, including workplace exposure limits in the UK, occupational exposure limits in the EU, and how employers can manage exposure limits.  

Chapter 5

COSHH risk assessment template


One of the most fundamental ways to manage chemical risk is by conducting a COSHH risk assessment. A COSHH risk assessment allows you to evaluate hazardous substances in terms of the  risks and hazards they pose, who they may affect in the workplace, necessary control measures, and more. This COSHH form is your key to creating a safer work environment for your employees.  

Because we have your organisation’s best interest at heart, we’ve created a COSHH risk assessment template for you to use so you don’t have to start from square one! Access this COSHH form now. 

Download your COSHH Risk Assessment Template

Chapter 6

The Ultimate Guide to COSHH Management

COSHH hazard symbols on vials of liquids

When was COSHH introduced? What are COSHH responsibilities? What is a COSHH assessment? We’ve explored these different areas of COSHH in the articles above, but what if you could get deeper insights on this topic in just one resource?  

We’re here to deliver! It's time to download The Ultimate Guide to COSHH Management: Your Roadmap to Mastering Chemical Safety.  

Access this guide to discover everything you need to know about COSHH, including: 

  • What is COSHH and why you should care 
  • COSHH regulations 
  • COSHH employer and employee duties 
  • Routes of chemical exposure 
  • 5 steps to COSHH assessment completion 
  • 8 steps to COSHH management 
  • And so much more! 

Are you ready to conquer COSHH? Read The Ultimate Guide to COSHH Management: Your Roadmap to Mastering Chemical Safety now 

Chapter 7

How to manage chemical risk 

Three workers in hazmat suits looking at an overturned barrel of liquid

Managing COSHH and different aspects of chemical safety can be a challenging task, especially if you’re using paper. Paper-based systems or Excel spreadsheets can lead to time-consuming manual processes and a lack of standardisation. It also makes it extremely difficult to uncover gaps in compliance and communicate efficiently with your teams. This leads to a reactive approach to safety, which is not in your organisation’s best interest.  

What’s the solution? We’ve created A Best Practice Guide to Managing Chemical Risk which covers key elements needed to elevate your approach to chemical safety: 

Find out more about:  

  • Examples of controls for hazardous substances 
  • 7 steps to manage chemical safety  
  • The benefits of a cloud-based system to level up your approach 

It’s time to master chemical safety and Download A Best Practice Guide to Managing Chemical Risk now.  

Access the Best Practice Guide to Managing Chemical Risk

Chapter 8

COSHH assessment software

Two workers wearing construction hats and safety vests looking at an iPad

COSHH management can be a challenging task, so let EcoOnline’s COSHH management software do the heavy lifting! Our COSHH assessment platform will help digitise and centralise your safety data sheets and risk assessments, making them easily accessible to your teams. It will also help you communicate the latest information in your COSHH database to your employees, so they are always aware of any updates. 

Imagine having the ability to complete your COSHH assessments online with a few simple clicks in EcoOnline’s COSHH management software. With this COSHH tool in the palm of your hands, you can help streamline the elements needed to create a safer work environment for your people.  

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Chapter 9

Case Study

A photo showing the outside of a building and the sky

Questioning whether our COSHH assessment software is right for you? Müller, a multi-national company, employing over 20,000+ employees across Europe relies on EcoOnline’s COSHH assessment system to help manage substances hazardous to health and stay compliant across multiple sites.  

Müller also uses our COSHH risk assessment software to standardise chemical assessments across the organisation. Our COSHH consultants have been an asset to keeping Müller up to date and on track with any new or changing legislation.  

Find out more about how EcoOnline has helped this organisation simplify COSHH compliance and management by reading their story