COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, and 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.
There are all manner of substances hazardous to health, and they can be encountered in both places you’d expect, and places you might not think about. These substances include chemicals, dusts, fumes, vapours, gases, some germs and more. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive mandates that workplaces are safe, which means that steps need to be taken to ensure that these potentially harmful substances don’t become a problem.
At the most minor end of the scale, these substances can cause things like skin irritation, which is common for chemicals used in cleaning for instance. Commercial kitchens often use fairly strong cleaning fluids which might come under COSHH, an indeed even some office cleaners will use potentially harmful substances. At the other end of the scale are very dangerous chemicals used in certain industries that can cause severe illnesses and even death. These are the ones that will be under significant scrutiny when it comes to COSHH practices.
Ultimately, COSHH is there to prevent people from being harmed by dangerous substances while they’re at work. It also applies to individuals carrying dangerous substances to other premises as part of their work. Any business that uses substances hazardous to health needs to be aware of COSHH, follow it, and mandate training if necessary.
The law doesn’t necessarily mandate a particular qualification that employees must have in order to work with substances hazardous to health, but they should receive appropriate training to ensure that they can carry out their job safely. COSHH training generally involves going through all of the basics of the principle, which we’ll take a quick look at now.
As with many of the HSE’s guidelines, COSHH begins with assessing risk. Any potentially harmful substances are identified, and their impact considered. Are there any chemicals in regular use? Are any cleaning products harmful? Once all of these substances are recorded, COSHH best practice states that attempts to substitute them should be made. Contact between a person and harmful substances can be avoided entirely if the substance is swapped out for something safe. Beyond this, COSHH is all about limiting exposure which means things like using as little of the substance as possible, wearing the right protective equipment, and handling the substance in the proper way.
And finally, COSHH procedure will also cover what happens when the safeguards fail and someone does come into contact with a hazardous substance. This might be as simple as washing the affected area with warm water, to calling for paramedics.
All of the above will be covered in more detail during COSHH training so that learners can understand how they need to manage harmful substances in their workplace. For a more in-depth look at the principles of COSHH, read our dedicated article on the subject here.
COSHH training courses are suitable for anyone who works or comes into contact with hazardous substances or materials in the workplace. Those professions which should undertake COSHH training include: Oil and Gas workers, mechanics, engineers, farmers, painters, decorators, cleaning staff and builders. Cleaners in particular can be found in lots of businesses, so even if yours is primarily office based, consider that if you don’t outsource cleaning, some COSHH training might be required.
Virtual College is a leader in developing and delivering health and safety courses for business, and as part of this we offer an overview of COSHH training course. Click here to find out more about what this course involves and who should take it.