COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. These Regulations require employers to control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health.
Hazardous substances include:
- Certain chemicals
- Bacteria and other micro-organisms
- certain dusts
- any other substance which has comparable health effects.
To comply with the Regulations the employer must: assess the risks to health arising from hazardous substances created by the work activity, and decide what precautions are needed to prevent or adequately control exposure.
The Regulations have a hierarchy of control measures which must be followed. If it is possible the activity or process must be changed so that the hazardous substance isn’t used or generated, or a safer alternative should be used.
Only if prevention is not reasonably practicable should the exposure be controlled by methods such as enclosure and ventilation.
The last control measure should be the use of personal protective equipment. The employer must make sure that the control measures are properly used and maintained. If necessary, they must monitor exposure and under some circumstances health surveillance must be provided.
Employees must also be properly informed, trained and supervised. Just having safety data sheets on file is not sufficient to comply with the requirements.
The HSE has information on what the law requires and advice on completing COSHH assessments. Please go to their website for more information.