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Last updated: 27.08.19

COSHH Legislation and Regulations Explained

COSHH is an important health and safety consideration for a great many businesses, and it’s also something mandated under law. In this article, we’re going to look at what COSHH is, and what the laws and regulations mean when it comes to your business.

What is COSHH?

COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, and comes from the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. COSHH is therefore a law and a framework for processes that help ensure that the risk of hazardous substances causing harm to people is reduced. Such hazardous substances can include the following:

  • Chemicals
  • Mists
  • Dusts
  • Vapours
  • Fumes
  • Gases
  • Microorganisms
  • Biological agents

Hazardous substances can be found everywhere, from specialist production lines, to machinery emissions, to basic cleaning products. As a result, it’s essential that they are controlled to ensure that people are safe when they’re at work.

What does the law say?

In short, any business that uses substances that may be hazardous to health is obligated to control the risk to employees. This is partly a responsibility given by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, but also The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, which more specifically cover dealing with harmful substances in the workplace. In order to fully comply with these regulations, it’s generally essential that any business working with hazardous substances carries out a thorough risk assessment, and if the business employs more than five people, this needs to be recorded. A COSHH risk assessment generally looks at all of the potential risky substances in the workplace, identifies how they might pose a danger, and seeks to put precautions in place.

Ultimately, these laws mean that you must take all necessary steps to ensuring that your employees are not harmed by substances such as dangerous chemicals. Failure to comply with COSHH law can mean action from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and this can be especially serious if an accident occurs that could have been prevented with proper COSHH consideration.

There are additional pieces of legislation to be aware of too. EH40/2005 Workplace exposure limits contains documentation that explains the legally defined exposure limits for 31 common and dangerous substances. It’s up to you to fully understand all of the substances you’re working with, and implement the necessary precautions. Businesses that actually produce or transport dangerous substances have additional legal obligations tangential to COSHH, and these must be fully understood.

Find out more

COSHH can be a complex subject, and as with all health and safety considerations, it’s not something to be taken likely. Those who are new to the concept should consider taking training to gain a good overview of the subject. Here at Virtual College we offer a large number of workplace health and safety courses, including dedicated COSHH training. Click here to be taken to the course page.

Alternatively, if you need specific information about a particular substance or your obligations, then the HSE should be your first point of call.

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