You may be familiar with the word “COSHH”, its typically used in relation to health and safety procedures. However, if you’re not aware of what COSHH means, or what it stands for, you’ll find all you need to understand what it stands for, the regulations they relate to and the essential elements of COSHH to help implement it into your business.
Businesses in the UK use different kinds of substances or products that are mixtures of substances, whilst some processes create substances. These can cause harm to employees, contractors or other stakeholders. Some substances are easily recognisable as harmful, whilst more commonly used substances, such as paint, bleach or dust (from natural materials) may also be harmful to human health.
What is COSHH?
First of all, we need to understand what ‘COSHH’ is before we can understand the essential elements of COSHH. COSHH is a set of regulations put in place to protect workers from ill health when working with specific substances and materials. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations (2002) states the requirements on how employers should protect their workers and other business stakeholders from the hazards of substances used in the workplace work. The COSHH regulations have been in place for more than 25 years, but the most recent iteration (2002) were re-enacted with amendments of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Work Regulations 1999.
The regulations were put in place to significantly reduce a worker’s exposure to hazardous substances. Breach of COSHH regulations by an employer or employee is a crime, punishable by an unlimited fine. Read more about the HSE’s COSHH regulations and guidance here.
COSHH was introduced to assist businesses control employee’s exposure of hazardous substances in the workplace. Businesses that use hazardous substances in the workplace should regularly complete COSHH risk assessments to understand and implement hazards and risks from substances control measures in a workplace. Typical questions asked in risk assessments include:
- Does the substance need to be used?
- Where is there potential for exposure to substances that might be hazardous to health?
- In what way are the substances harmful to health?
- What jobs or tasks lead to exposure?
The Essential Elements of COSHH
The 7 essential elements of COSHH can help to manage hazardous substances more effectively; identifying strategies for elimination and substitution, assessing risk and providing guidance on how to control the use of substances within your business. We have put together an infographic which easily breaks down the regulations in to three core parts.
- Management and Assessment
- Monitoring and Maintenance
Within the three core areas, there’s seven essential elements or steps that can help you manage and protect employees from hazardous substances. By following these steps, you will begin to understand how to protect workers and stakeholders in your workplace and comply with this part of the HSE’s regulations.
HSE has also provided HSG97: A Step-By-Step Guide to COSHH Assessment guidance to help businesses assess their activities under the COSHH Regulations. It describes and explains the principles of assessment and illustrates them with extensive examples.
The 7 Essential Elements of COSHH Infographic
1. Elimination and Substitution (Regulation 7)
Identifying and acknowledging all substances that could be a potential hazard to human health to determine whether or not any harmful substances are required in your business or whether there are any substitutes available. Wherever possible, the HSE advise to change the working process so that the hazardous substance isn’t used or produced. Alternatively, source a safer alternative product.
Workplace Exposure Limits
In addition to the COSHH regulations (2002), the HSE also has exposure limit guidance which should be used in tandem. The EH40/2005 Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL) guidance. Find out more about workplace exposure guidance in our blog, What are Substance WELs (Workplace Exposure Limits)?
2. Formal Assessments (Regulation 6)
The next step is to complete a comprehensive risk assessment for all the business processes involved. This documents that you have completed a risk assessment. Regular assessments allow employers to educate workers to ensure they conduct their work in line with risk assessments.
3. Implement Controls (Regulation 7 and 8)
For this step, determine working controls and procedures of how to competently and safely control the substances used. Employers must prevent or control exposure to hazardous substances. Implement control measures around hazardous substances and ensure these are maintained and kept up to date, in full working order and clean where appropriate. These can include the provision of appropriate local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems to remove contaminants from the working environment and/or to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary.
Substances can come in various forms, such as fumes, dusts, vapours and mists. An at-source LEV, or extraction system could be the most-effective exposure control method.
We the UK’s leading local exhaust ventilation (LEV) company. Over the last 20 years, we’ve helped thousands of businesses create dust and fume free workplaces with comprehensive LEV installations. As experts in all things LEV, we can help your business become COSHH Regulations (2002) compliant with a tailored LEV solution. We provide comprehensive design, installation, maintenance and certification services across a range of industry sectors.
Book a FREE LEV Site Assessment Today!
We’ll call to arrange a convenient time and date to visit your site. We’ll analyse your working processes, assess the substances used and the contaminants generated. We’ll workout how best to control the dust and fume in a way that’s in line with your COSHH risk assessment. Next, we’ll design you a comprehensive LEV system that adheres to HSG258 guidance and send this you to via email.
We’ll do all this to ensure we fully understand your dust and fume extraction requirements and help you to provide a pollution-free workplace!
This is an amazing service we do for thousands of businesses throughout the UK & Ireland every year. We work with such a wide variety industries, from manufacturing, industrial, woodworking, pharmaceutical and automotive workshops to schools, colleges and military establishments.
Request your FREE, no-obligation LEV site assessment today!
4. Inform, Instruct and Train (Regulation 12 and 13)
Once you’ve got controls, you need to keep them! So it’s education, education, education! Thoroughly train the relevant staff who come in contact with the substances hazardous to health. It is your obligation to provide employees with information, instruction and training around working with hazardous substances. By putting procedures in place, you can ensure that accidents and emergencies relating to hazardous substances are dealt with appropriately and accordingly.
5. Inspect and Maintain (Regulation 9)
Set dates for inspections to ensure the control procedures put in place are adhered to. This is for the benefit of both you and workers to ensure safe working conditions are being maintained.
Local exhaust ventilation systems are subject to an examination and test every 14 months as they’re prone to wear and tear damage with daily use. It could be critical to your business that LEV systems are maintained, particularly if they’re an essential control method in your business. In HSG97: A Step-By-Step Guide to COSHH Assessment, it’s recommended that: “Defects are repaired as soon as possible.”
Regular inspections and maintenance is essential to make sure any defects or shortcomings are not reported. These should form part of a PPM (planned, preventative maintenance) schedule. Detailing PPM schedules in local exhaust ventilation systems’ logbooks, as part of maintenance and testing demonstrates your proactiveness to ensure they’re well maintained and in ‘good working order’. We offer comprehensive LEV Testing and LEV Service maintenance services to help your business meet Regulation 9 of the COSHH regulations, find out more below.
LEV Maintenance and Testing
Accordingly to HSE ‘HSG258: Controlling Airborne Contaminants at Work: A Guide to Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV)‘ guidance, LEV systems should be tested every 14 months to remain fully operational and HSE compliant. Find out more about our LEV Testing service.
LEV servicing is typically done as part of a thorough PPM (planned preventative maintenance) schedule. A comprehensive PPM in place ensures that the extraction system doesn’t develop signs of wear and tear. We always recommend that local exhaust ventilation systems are serviced regularly to ensure longevity is preserved. Find out more about our LEV Servicing here.
6. Exposure and Monitoring (Regulation 10)
With measures in place, it is good practice to ensure that the WELs (Workplace Exposure Limits) are being met. You should ensure WELs are not exceeded.
7. Health and Surveillance (Regulation 11)
Ensure that employees are adhering to procedures that have been put in place, stuck to and review the proceedures regularly. In addition, the HSE advises that the health of any workers that have been exposed to substances should be reviewed. Use the health surveillance cycle tool [Infographic} to help monitor employee’s health.
The Health Surveillance Cycle Tool [Infographic]
Follow these simple seven steps to help control the health surveillance in your business. A health surveillance programme should be used to monitor health risks by regularly assessing employees health. Employers have a duty of care to adequately control substances under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations.
- Risk assessment and controls
- Do I need health surveillance?
- What sort of health surveillance do I need?
- Design and set up the necessary health surveillance
- Identify who’ll manage the health surveillance
- Implement health surveillance for those who need it
- Manage performance, interpret result and act on results
Find out more
To find out more information about the COSHH cycle, LEV system installations or to ensure that your workplace complies with the HSE’s COSHH regulations, please contact us via email, or call us for a no-obligation discussion on 01942 267444. In addition, keep in touch with us on our social media channels, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for updates.
Note: You can find a more comprehensive and in-depth guide to the essential elements of COSHH on the HSE’s website, simply click here.