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How to carry out a COSHH risk assessment

schedule 29th August 2019 by Virtual College in Health and Safety Last updated on 29th August 2019

COSHH risk assessment

Carrying out a COSHH risk assessment is essential if your business has hazardous materials which can result in greater risks for your employees.

It’s also important to remember than hazardous materials can be formed from otherwise normal processes, like silica dust from cutting tiles, and also need to be taken into consideration. We’ve outline the main points that you will need to consider when undergoing a COSHH assessment, which will need to be carried out by a ‘competent person’ within your business. While this can be an employer or employee, if your business handles hazardous materials then it can be a good idea to bring in an outside consultant with the relevant technical knowledge who can comprehensively assess your business.

Collect information

The first step is to gather as much information about which substances you use and identify which have harmful properties. You can find out a lot from the product labels which will carry safety information, as well as safety data sheets (SDS) although some harmful substances don’t have official SDSs.

Evaluate health risks

You will need to be aware of the health risks associated with each harmful substance that people on-site could come into contact with, including long term and short term effects. This is especially important for those substances with workplace exposure limits, as some will carry greater risk and can complicate internal procedures if an accident does occur.

Isolate points of contact

Look at the areas where these substances are kept and used within the workplace and where workers are at risk of being exposed to these substances. Understanding how many workers are exposed to it and for how long are just some of the important factors to consider, especially if a substance has a workplace exposure limit (WEL). Considering whether third parties such as maintenance workers or contractors could also come into contact with a harmful substance is another major area to think about when identifying possible contact points.

Select appropriate control measures

Once you have all the necessary information about the harmful substances used within your business, the potential health risks and the areas where contact with these substances occur, you will need to decide upon suitable and effective control measures to negate or reduce risk to its lowest possible level. This can include:

  • Swapping a harmful substance for a safer alternative
  • Changing your process or procedure to reduce the risk of exposure
  • Adding in a containment measure to remove the risk or limit exposure
  • Create new systems of work to restrict access to certain areas containing harmful materials
  • Improve cleaning measure to remove any potential traces of harmful substances

Monitor performance and review

Recording your assessment is crucial as you will need documentation to prove you have undergone a COSHH risk assessment, but it also give you a valuable tool which allows you to monitor the effectiveness of any new control measures that are implemented. You can then use this initial risk assessment as a baseline for further review and continually improve safety measures.

You can get a comprehensive breakdown of COSHH and the relevant laws and regulations surrounding it with our COSHH e-learning course. This can be completed at your own pace and contains all the information you’ll need to inform your staff of the importance of a COSHH risk assessment and how to identify potential dangers from hazardous substances within the workplace.

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Author: Virtual College

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