The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) is all about controlling the exposure of persons to substances that could be detrimental to their health with the aim of preventing illness.
COSHH hinges around the process of ‘risk assessment’ to determine whether the exposure levels in the workplace are likely to cause risks to health.
The assessment process should include the following:
- Identification of the substance used or produced during the work;
- The hazardous properties of the substance;
- Information on health effects provided by the supplier, including information contained in any relevant safety data sheet;
- The level, type and duration of exposure;
- The amount of the substance involved;
- The work activity i.e. maintenance, where there is the potential for a high level of exposure;
- Any relevant workplace exposure limit;
- The effect of preventive and control measures which have been or will be taken;
- The results of relevant health surveillance;
- The results of monitoring of exposure;
- The risk presented by exposure to more than one substance if used in combination;
- The approved classification of any biological agent;
- Such additional information as the employer may need in order to complete the risk assessment i.e. the provision of training and the ability to deal with emergencies; and,
- Appropriate conclusions from the findings.
A hierarchy of control must be followed if it is found that the exposure to such substances is not being adequately controlled, namely:
- Elimination of the hazardous substance.
- Substitution (modification of the substance, process and/or workplace).
- Segregation (applying controls to the process, such as enclosures, splashguards and LEV).
- Safe Systems of Work (working in ways that minimise exposure, such as using a safe working distance to avoid skin exposure).
- Personal Protective Equipment (equipment or devices worn by exposed individuals).
The assessment must be reviewed regularly and following any significant change or any monitoring to ensure it remains valid.