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COSHH – Identifying workplace risks and hazards

schedule 19th August 2019 by Virtual College in Health and Safety Last updated on 19th August 2019

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What is COSHH?

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) centres around identifying the risks around hazardous substances within the workplace and reducing the exposure employees have to these substances, as well as providing accurate control measures.

COSHH is a very important principle in several industries, as well as being something that you might encounter in the everyday workplace. Given that it’s an important part of workplace health and safety, it will come as no surprise that it’s a training essential for many businesses. If you’re unsure exactly what it means and whether you or your employees might need it, then this article is for you.

Perform a risk assessment while touring your workplace

The easiest way to identify any contact points with hazardous materials is by performing a thorough risk assessment which covers the potential ways any employees can come into contact the substance. Walking your site will help you to understand how day-to-day operations can result in exposure in different forms, e.g. dust, fumes, vapours, mists, gases, physical contact, and how frequently for each staff member.

Check which tasks would result in exposure to a hazardous material

Getting a comprehensive lists of all tasks within your workplace which can result in handling of a hazardous material is crucial in knowing exactly what safety measure you will need and where to implement them. Knowing how often these tasks take place, how long the operation takes and the number of staff members involved are also key pieces of information you’ll need.

Consider how harmful the substances on site are to health

Knowing what sort of hazards are associated with the particular substances you handle within your workplace will help you to access what suitable control measure will be. Checking the relevant safety data sheets is essential in getting as much information as possible, but there are some substances which don’t have any safety data sheets. If a substance also has a workplace exposure limit (WEL) then it will need more robust measures and back-up measure to ensure the risk level is as low as possible.

Review previous incidents for areas of concern which need addressing

As all accidents and incidents which occur within the workplace are required to be logged, especially in the instance of hazardous materials, looking over any events which happened over the last year or so to identify repeat issues is a good way of understanding the areas you should prioritise.

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information from these points, you can decide on the necessary measures which will need implementing in order to comply with COSHH regulations, whether that’s control equipment which needs installing or controlling procedures which will lower the risk to the least amount possible.

Virtual College’s COSHH Training course has been created so that all employees and employers within any sector can understand how to work safely with dangerous substances, covering the importance of COSHH and the effects that harmful substances can have if not handled correctly. If you’re interested in this comprehensive e-learning course to give your staff the COSHH training they need, click here.


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