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Top 10 hazardous substances and how
COSHH can help control them

COSHH, or the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, is a set of regulations in the UK aimed at protecting workers and others from the risks associated with hazardous substances in the workplace.

Enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), COSHH requires employers to manage risks by implementing effective control measures. By adhering to COSHH regulations, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of health issues related to hazardous substances, ensuring a safer working environment and compliance with legal standards.

Why is COSHH important?

Hazardous substances in the workplace can cause a range of health issues, including respiratory diseases, skin conditions, poisoning, and cancer. COSHH is crucial for:

  • Protecting Worker Health: By identifying and controlling exposure to hazardous substances, COSHH helps prevent occupational illnesses and injuries.

  • Legal Compliance: Adhering to COSHH is a legal requirement. Non-compliance can lead to fines, legal action, and reputational damage.

  • Fostering a Safe Work Environment: Effective COSHH management promotes a culture of safety, enhancing worker morale and productivity.

What are the 10 most hazardous substances commonly found in workplaces?

1) Chemical Cleaning Products: COSHH requires employers to assess the risks associated with these products, provide appropriate training, and ensure the availability of safety data sheets. Control measures may include using less hazardous alternatives, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), and implementing safe handling procedures.

2) Asbestos: COSHH mandates the identification and assessment of asbestos-containing materials in workplaces. Control measures typically involve avoiding exposure through proper management and removal procedures, as well as providing respiratory protection and training for workers.

3) Lead: COSHH requires employers to assess the risks of lead exposure and implement control measures such as engineering controls (e.g., ventilation), personal protective equipment (e.g., respirators), and hygiene measures (e.g., handwashing facilities).

4) Biological Agents: COSHH covers the risks associated with biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Control measures may include containment measures, immunisation, safe disposal procedures, and the use of PPE.

5) Solvents: COSHH requires employers to assess the risks associated with solvent use and implement control measures such as ventilation systems, substitution with less hazardous substances, and providing appropriate PPE.

6) Dusts: COSHH addresses the risks associated with various types of dust, including silica, wood, and metal dust. Control measures may include dust extraction systems, personal protective equipment (e.g., respirators), and regular cleaning to minimise exposure.

7) Pesticides: COSHH requires employers to assess the risks associated with pesticide use and implement control measures such as training, safe handling procedures, and the provision of appropriate PPE.

8) Welding Fumes: COSHH addresses the risks associated with exposure to welding fumes, including gases such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Control measures may include local exhaust ventilation, respiratory protection, and training on safe welding practices.

9) Hazardous Drugs: COSHH covers the risks associated with handling hazardous drugs in healthcare settings. Control measures may include safe handling procedures, PPE such as gloves and gowns, and proper ventilation in preparation areas.

10) Carbon Monoxide: COSHH requires employers to assess the risks of carbon monoxide exposure in workplaces where combustion processes occur. Control measures may include adequate ventilation, regular maintenance of equipment, and the use of carbon monoxide detectors.

What are the key components of COSHH?

The key components of COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) are designed to ensure that hazardous substances are managed effectively in the workplace to protect worker health. These components form a comprehensive framework for identifying, assessing, and controlling risks. The primary components of COSHH include:

✅  RISK ASSESSMENT

Identify Hazards:

  • Determine which substances used in the workplace could cause harm.
  • Review Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and other relevant information about the substances.

Evaluate Risks:

  • Assess the potential health risks posed by these substances, considering the nature of the exposure, the extent, and the duration.
  • Consider who might be affected, including employees, contractors, and visitors.

Implement Controls:

  • Decide on appropriate measures to control exposure and protect workers.

Ensure that the level of control is proportional to the risk.

CONTROL MEASURES

Substitution:

  • Replace hazardous substances with less harmful alternatives whenever possible.

Engineering Controls:

  • Use physical measures such as ventilation systems, fume hoods, or enclosed systems to reduce exposure.

Administrative Controls:

  • Implement procedures and policies to minimize risk, such as safe handling practices, proper storage, and regular maintenance of equipment.
  • Organize work to reduce exposure, such as job rotation and limiting the time individuals are exposed to hazardous substances.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

  • Provide appropriate PPE, such as gloves, masks, respirators, and goggles, when other controls cannot adequately reduce risk.
  • Ensure PPE is correctly maintained and used properly.

✅ MONITORING HEALTH AND SURVEILLANCE 

Monitoring:

  • Regularly monitor exposure levels to ensure they remain within safe limits.
  • Use monitoring equipment and techniques appropriate to the substances and the working environment.

Health Surveillance:

  • Implement health surveillance programs for early detection of work-related illnesses.
  • Conduct regular health checks for workers who are exposed to certain hazardous substances, as required by COSHH.

✅ INFORMATION, INSTRUCTION AND TRAINING

Information:

  • Provide information to workers about the risks associated with hazardous substances in their workplace.
  • Ensure Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are accessible to all employees.

Instruction:

  • Give clear instructions on safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous substances.
  • Develop and communicate standard operating procedures.

Training:

  • Provide training on the risks and control measures, including the correct use of PPE and emergency procedures.
  • Ensure training is updated regularly and whenever new substances or processes are introduced.

✅ EMERGENCY PLANNING

Emergency Procedures:

  • Develop procedures for dealing with accidental spills, exposures, and other emergencies involving hazardous substances.
  • Ensure that all employees are familiar with emergency procedures and know how to respond.

First Aid and Spill Response:

  • Provide appropriate first aid facilities and ensure personnel are trained in their use.
  • Equip the workplace with spill kits and ensure employees know how to use them.

If you’re looking to ensure a safer work environment, protect employee health, and comply with legal requirements, view our specific training course today!

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