COSHH stands for ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 regulations require employers to protect everyone who works in their business, as well as any visitors, from the health and safety risks associated with contact with potentially dangerous chemicals. This is a legal requirement with strong penalties for businesses that don't comply.
All businesses must carry out a risk assessment and identify any substances in the workplace that may be hazardous to health. When a substance is identified, measures must be taken to educate and train the employees on the dangers and safe handling procedures, and emergency plans must be put in place. Failing to do that can be seen as a breach of regulations and a criminal act.
Hazardous substances can come in many forms, including chemicals, nanoparticles, vapours, gases, dust, fumes, fibres. Because of this COSHH assessment is very important, so businesses can identify hazardous substances that may have eluded initial identification and put measures in place for dealing with them. This may mean more training, acquiring a COSHH-compliant cabinet for storage, buying appropriate equipment for handling the substances, etc.
The right storage of hazardous substances can be just as important as having the right equipment to work with them. As some substances can emit vapours, gases, fumes or particles it can be easy for almost anyone to breathe them in. A well-ventilated room or COSHH-compliant cabinet can help with that. Storage Cabinets can also help to physically separate different substances that should not mix while in storage and can also have a tray to catch any drips and prevent spills when the cabinet is opened.
When it comes to handling the dangerous substances there are two distinct types of equipment to think about. The first type is personal protective equipment (PPE) that will be worn by employees. The second type is equipment to help deal with accidents. For example, Spill Kits for Chemicals may need to be acquired. Employees will need to be trained on the use of all equipment and which kind is appropriate when.
Once COSHH risk assessment is carried out and hazardous substances are identified it is time to train those who will have access and will need to handle them appropriately.
As we have already mentioned, one of those steps will include training on the dangers of the substance and on safe handling. It is also important to train employees on the hazardous substances signs they will come across. This will help them identify any new substances and report them so safety measures can be put in place. Knowing what each sigh means can also help them identify the dangers and how to handle a hazardous substance when needed.