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COSHH FAQs

Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about COSHH regulations, training and requirements. This page will help you to improve your knowledge around COSHH and will help you to implement COSHH principles into your workplace. COSHH is a comprehensive set of regulations that require employers to limit and control exposure to hazardous substances. Thousands of people working in industries ranging from cleaning to agriculture fall ill every year as a result of working with hazardous substances. comprehensive set of regulations requires employers to limit and control exposure to hazardous substances. Thousands of people working in industries ranging from cleaning to agriculture fall ill every year as a result of working with hazardous substances.

COSHH legislation FAQs

What does COSHH stand for?

COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health.

Are COSHH assessments a legal requirement?

Yes – COSHH assessments are a legal requirement for workplaces containing substances which are considered dangerous to human health.

Is COSHH a legislation or regulation?

COSHH is a set of health and safety regulations which requires employers to ensure the safety of their employees when working with hazardous substances.

Can I sue my employer for health and safety breaches?

You cannot sue your employer for breaches of health and safety, but you can alert a health and safety official to the breach. You can only sue your employer with respect to health and safety if you suffer a personal injury as a result of a breach.

Do I need a COSHH assessment?

If you are working with chemicals which can be hazardous to the health of yourself or your employees, then you are legally obligated to carry out a COSHH assessment.

What is Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act?

Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act is a section dedicated to the duty of employees when working with hazardous substances. It states that employees should take reasonable care for the safety of his colleagues who could be affected by the employee’s action, as well as himself.

What is the Health and Safety Act 1974 Main Points?

The main points of the Health and Safety Act 1974 sets out a selection of responsibilities that employers are legally required to take on regarding the health and safety of their employees. This includes anything from fire safety to COSHH - the duties of employers is laid out extensively.

Why is Riddor important?

RIDDOR is important because it requires employers to keep track of any incidents which happen concerning health and safety in the workplace. This means that employers can be held responsible for any health and safety breaches, and consequently, more importance is placed on safer working practices. The information gathered as part of RIDDOR is also important, because it helps the HSE monitor and improve on health and safety protocols in businesses across the country.

Why is the Health and Safety Act 1974 important?

The Health and Safety Act of 1974 is important because it is a legal obligation which encourages the observance of health and safety practices in workplaces of all industries. It creates safer working environments for all manner of employees by requiring employers to implement and regularly review health and safety rules and protocols.

COSHH risk assessment

What is a COSHH risk assessment?

A COSHH risk assessment is an assessment process which looks into the risks of hazardous substances in a workplace. The risk assessment establishes the dangers involved with these hazardous substances and puts a plan into place to control and mitigate the risks, to avoid potential health and safety incidents. Employers are required to carry out COSHH risk assessments by law.

What are the 5 steps to risk assessment?

The five steps of risk assessments are:

  1. Establish the hazards in the workplace
  2. Identify which employees might be at risk
  3. Assess the risks and decide on appropriate practices to combat the hazard
  4. Record the findings and the solutions
  5. Undertake a review of the risk assessment process

How do you carry out a COSHH assessment?

The first step for those wishing to carry out a COSHH assessment is to make notes of the substances which are used in the workplace and how employees interact with them. Then, an evaluation of the substances is required which would see a health and safety officer collect information on the heath risks involved. From here, a series of procedures and regulations should be set up to establish a safe way to work with the substances. This assessment will need to be reviewed at the end of the process, and a new assessment undertaken when new substances appear in the workplace.

How do you carry out a risk assessment?

To carry out a risk assessment, the first thing to do is to note down the risks in the workplace which the employees may come into contact with. These hazards give indication to the necessary next steps, which include the establishing of safe practices and protocols to control and mitigate the risks. Following the process, a review of the risk assessment should be carried out, noting the findings of the assessment and what was done to improve health and safety practices. The risk assessment should also be reviewed often to maintain its validity.

What needs to be included in a COSHH assessment?

In a COSHH assessment the following need to be included:

  • The identification of potentially hazardous substances
  • The assessing of what employees are at risk from the hazardous substances
  • The establishing of precautions and safety protocols
  • The reviewing of the process for future assessments

What are the 5 types of hazards?

The OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) details 5 types of workplace hazards which are as follows:

  • Chemical – Hazards brought on by chemical handling
  • Biological – Hazards brought on by working with animal or human material
  • Physical – Hazards brought on by physical surroundings and workplaces
  • Ergonomic – Hazards related to repetitive or physically demanding work

Safety – Everyday and general hazards encountered in the workplace

What are the 4 steps of risk management?

  1. Identify hazards in the workplace
  2. Research the risks posed by those hazards
  3. Establish protocols to control the hazards
  4. Review the process at the end to establish areas for improvement

What is the difference between a COSHH assessment and a safety data sheet?

A COSHH assessment is the process of assessing the hazardous substance in a workplace for their potential risks. The assessment notes down the risks and is used to create protocols and practice for the safe use of those hazardous materials. The safety data sheet, or the SDS, forms part of the assessment and is a helpful guide to the nature of the hazardous substances used. The SDS gives important information on the potential risks associated with certain chemicals and how they should be controlled. This information informs the first steps of a COSHH assessment by detailing some of the risks which need to be recorded.

What are the three stages of a risk assessment?

The three main stages of a risk assessment follow this structure:

  1. Identify the risks in the workplace
  2. Assess the risks and the potential harm posed by them
  3. Establish protocols for dealing with the risks

An Overview of COSHH Online Course

Our online COSHH training course has been created to provide people at any level, in any sector, with guidance that will help them to work safely with substances that are hazardous to health and comply with COSHH regulations.

An Overview of COSHH

General COSHH FAQs

How do you control COSHH?

To control COSHH practices in the workplace, it is important that all employees are aware of COSHH procedures and how to handle dangerous substances. This awareness can be achieved through regular training, and updates when new substances are brought into the workflow. Signs around the workplace are also helpful, as a reference for old and new workers alike.

How do you handle hazardous substances?

Hazardous substances should be handled with the utmost care. Certain rules should be always be followed:

  • Use the appropriate protective clothing
  • Follow established procedure
  • Be sure to store every substance correctly
  • Use all substances for their recommended uses

Label every container appropriately

How does COSHH keep people safe?

COSHH is designed to keep employees who work alongside hazardous substances safe. COSHH procedures regulate the use of dangerous chemicals, instructing on how they should be used safely and training employees on how to handle them. COSHH includes collecting information on chemical health hazards, establishing how to prevent harm to the workforce and planning for potential incidents.

How does COSHH promote safety?

COSHH promotes safety by requiring employers to carry out risk assessments, develop safety strategies and train employees to safely handle dangerous substances.

How long do you need to keep COSHH records?

COSHH requires employers to keep records of health surveillance on all of its employees who work with hazardous substances. These must be kept by the employer for at least 40 years and if the employer goes out of business, the records should be handed over to the HSE for safeguarding.

How often should a COSHH assessment be reviewed?

A COSHH assessment should be reviewed regularly, with the time between each review informed by the nature of the risk and the judgement of the employer on whether the circumstances of substance handling have changed.

Is food covered by COSHH?

Food is generally not covered by COSHH. Other biological substances are covered however, such as bacterial agents, germs and substances from humans and animals.

What are dangerous substances?

Dangerous substances with regards to COSHH regulations are those which are hazardous to health. These can take the forms of solids, liquids and gases which can have adverse effects on the human body.

What are the 4 types of PPE?

There are four levels of PPE (personal protective equipment). Each one corresponds to a different level of hazardous material and are as follows:

  1. Level A PPE: The highest level of protection to all parts of the body is required
  2. Level B PPE: The highest level of respiratory equipment is required
  3. Level C PPE: The hazardous airbourne substance is known, and the appropriate respiratory equipment is required

Level D PPE: The lowest level, for minimal risks and nuisance level substances.

General COSHH FAQs continued

What is the purpose of Riddor?

RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013. The purpose of RIDDOR is to require employers to report health and safety workplace incidents to the HSE. These reports are used to improve health and safety practices in UK workplaces.

What are the 9 pictograms?

The 9 pictograms are a series of COSHH symbols which denote the presence of a hazardous chemical wherever the symbol is found. They can be found here.

What are the COSHH symbols?

The COSHH symbols are a series of warning symbols alerting employees to the presence of hazardous materials. The images give indication of the severity and dangers posed by the hazardous materials and are framed in a red diamond. The symbols and their meanings can be found here.

What are the five classifications of substances hazardous to health according to the COSHH regulations?

COSHH regulations include the following substances which may be hazardous to health:

  • Chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Gases
  • Biological agents
  • Germs
  • Nanotechnology
  • Mists
  • Vapours
  • Dusts

What are the main aims of COSHH?

COSHH is a series of regulations put in place by the British government to protect employees working with hazardous substances. Its main aim is to ensure that employers put safety protocols in place for the handling of dangerous substances, and that they provide necessary training to employees on how to work alongside such things as chemicals, biological agents and other potential dangerous materials.

What does the HSE do?

The HSE is an agency working on behalf of the British government to monitor, establish and uphold the regulation and enforcement of health and safety practices in workplaces across the UK. They are responsible for COSHH as a law and they regularly carry out research into new hazardous materials that are introduced into the UK market.

What does your employer's health and safety policy tell you?

Any business with five or more people in its employ is required by law to have a health and safety policy. The health and safety policy is a document which provides details as to how the business intends, and does, protect the health and safety of its employees. This should include information on who is responsible for health and safety protocol and what reactions will be undertaken when it comes to health and safety incidents. The policy should be available to everyone that works in the business.

What happens if you don’t follow COSHH?

As an employee, if you don’t follow COSHH then you run a serious risk of injury or illness from your working environment. You may also face disciplinary action from your company. COSHH is designed to keep a company workforce safe while they work with hazardous materials.

What is a dangerous occurrence under Riddor?

A dangerous occurrence under RIDDOR is considered to be an infrequent incident which has a high potential to cause serious harm or even death to an employee. Information on what constitutes a dangerous occurrence can be found here.

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Personal COSHH FAQs

Are household chemicals dangerous?

Some household chemicals are dangerous and others are not. Those which are have warning signs on their bottles or containers denoting in what way they are dangerous are hazardous. These can be found in diamond symbols with red borders.

Can I wear my own safety shoes at work?

Your employer decides whether you may wear your own safety shoes at work, and this should be brought up with your manager or HR department.

How do I report to the HSE?

If you wish to report a health and safety concern, complain or breach to the HSE, you can do so via an online form or by calling their helpline on 0300 003 1647.

Who can write a COSHH assessment?

Generally, in larger organisations, there is a designated health and safety officer who is in charge of overseeing health and safety practices in the workplace. These employees are normally responsible for writing COSHH assessments. If there is no designated health and safety officer, then this duty falls to the employer.

Who is responsible for COSHH in the workplace?

From an overall perspective, the employer is responsible for COSHH in the workplace, though this responsibility may be assigned to specialist individuals.

Are chemicals dangerous?

Yes, certain chemicals can be dangerous. Generally, these chemicals have warning signs on their containers and those with red borders in a diamond shape are notably dangerous.

Does medication come under COSHH?

Certain kinds of medication come under COSHH regulations – these tend to come with warnings of their own, such as cytotoxic drugs.

How do you handle harmful chemicals?

While every chemical has its own requirements when it comes to its handling, there are some actions which are common practice when working with dangerous substances:

  • Always wear protective clothing
  • Follow established protocol
  • Ensure every container is clearly and obviously labelled
  • Store every substance in its appropriate location

Use all substances for their intended uses

How often should you do COSHH training?

It is recommended that refresher training for COSHH practices should be carried out every three years.

Practical COSHH FAQs

What is covered by COSHH regulations?

COSHH regulations cover a variety of aspects of hazardous substance regulations and safety. This includes the storage of hazardous substances, their use in the workplace, appropriate protective gear and necessary training.

What is a HSE plan?

A HSE plan is a strategy created by a company on how the employers plans to improve and monitor health and safety standards in a workplace. This plan is best written by an external figure, with input from managers, supervisors and employees in the business.

What are examples of hazardous materials?

Examples of hazardous materials include the following:

  • Chemicals
  • Gases
  • Bacteria
  • Fumes
  • Dusts
  • Vapour

What is the purpose of Riddor?

RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013. The purpose of RIDDOR is to require employers to report health and safety workplace incidents to the HSE. These reports are used to improve health and safety practices in UK workplaces.

Why do we need Riddor?

RIDDOR is necessary because it keeps a record of any health and safety incidents that happen in the workplace. Because RIDDOR allows employees to hold employers accountable for negligence, it actively encourages employers to do everything necessary to avoid any health and safety incidents. This record also provides invaluable insight to the HSE who can then use the information to inform research into modern working practices.

What should be worn when using chemicals?

PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, is essential when using chemicals. There are four levels of PPE which are appropriate according to how hazardous or harmful to health the handled chemicals are. Some chemicals require full-body protection and others require minimal specialist clothing. The levels come as follows:

  1. 1 Level A PPE: The highest level of protection to all parts of the body is required
  2. Level B PPE: The highest level of respiratory equipment is required
  3. Level C PPE: The hazardous airbourne substance is known, and the appropriate respiratory equipment is known.
  4. Level D PPE: The lowest level, for minimal risks and nuisance level substances

What should you do if your PPE is damaged?

If your PPE is damaged, then it is imperative that you stop the work you are doing and retreat to a safe area. Remove the equipment and report its damage to your supervisor.

What substances does COSHH cover?

COSHH covers things such as chemicals, gasses, germs, fumes and dusts. Any solid, liquid or gas that is denoted by a COSHH hazard symbol framed in a red diamond is covered by COSHH.

Why is COSHH important in the workplace?

COSHH is important in the workplace because it keeps employees safe when working with potentially hazardous materials and substances. It requires employers to ensure that safe working standards are observed, that employees are appropriately trained and that any health and safety incidents that happen when working with hazardous substances are reported to the HSE.

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