The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations are vital in safeguarding your staff and complying with legal requirements. Alongside changing legislation, the introduction of new substances and a lack of specialist knowledge; making mistakes with COSHH management can result in staff suffering from work-related ill health and businesses facing significant fines, prosecution and irreparable reputational damage.
In this blog, Alcumus Sypol’s in-house COSHH scientists, Mike Harris and Matthew Pritchard, discuss what businesses need to keep in mind when managing COSHH in the workplace.
- Assess a situation rather than a substance
A single COSHH assessment does not cover you for every possible use of a substance. Multiple assessments must be made for different exposure scenarios.
- Caution in grouping COSHH risk assessments
Businesses often group substances such as paint and glue together and think that they need to be controlled in the same way, which is not the case. For example, various paints will contain widely different chemicals, which means that their hazards vary
- Safety Data Sheet and COSHH risk assessments are different
There’s a common misconception about the purpose of an SDS sheet and COSHH risk assessment. An SDS sheet contains important information about the substance; however, it does not outline how to safely control its use. A COSHH risk assessment is a legal document.
The most harmful substances are often the ones that we can’t see such as dusts, fumes and vapour. These substances can cause significant damage to the respiratory system and lungs; therefore, they must be managed correctly.
- Have a formal health surveillance scheme in place
If your employees are exposed to hazardous substances daily, they must have regular access to health surveillance testing. Lung function testing, skin checks and biological monitoring should all be considered to measure their impact on your employee’s health.
- Complete employee training
Having COSHH risk assessments is a first step; however, your employees need to be trained and educated on what they mean and why they are important. If employees don't understand the risk, then they are more likely to harm themselves and those around them.
- Have a COSHH risk assessment for all substances
Substances that cause adverse effects to people’s health should legally have an associated COSHH risk assessment. Even if you think that you’re managing exposure to substances safely, be mindful of process generated substances that are often neglected.
- Review your COSHH risk assessments
COSHH compliance is a cycle of continuous improvement. Many businesses think that their job is done once they have COSHH risk assessments in place; however, processes and procedures must be reviewed regularly.
- Assess biological hazards
Don’t forget that any hazardous bacteria, fungus or virus should have a COSHH risk assessment if there is foreseeable exposure in the line of work.
All Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) that is worn in work requires a face fit test. This will ensure that the mask is effectively sealed with the face. If a seal is not being made, the mask will not provide the required level of protection.
Download a free ‘10 things businesses need to remember when managing COSHH in the workplace’ PDF infographic resource.
Written by Mike Harris, Head of Account Management for Sypol, and Matthew Pritchard, CMS Team Leader.
Find out how Alcumus Sypol’s COSHH management software can help you to manage and control your use of hazardous substances. You can also email us to request a demo of the Sypol COSHH Management Solution.