What is COSHH Assessment? Unfortunately, most of us at some point will be exposed to chemicals, or other hazardous substances in the workplace and this exposure, if uncontrolled, has the potential to cause poor health. So, the law requires all employers to control our exposure to hazardous substances through Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).
“Is doing a COSHH Assessment legally required? The answer is yes, if you work with any controlled substances”
What is a HAZARDOUS substance?
Simply put, a ‘hazardous substance’ is any substance that has one or more of the following intrinsic ‘hazardous properties’:
- Can explode
- Is flammable
- Has the ability to oxidise (accelerate a fire)
- Is toxic to humans (acute or chronic)
- Is corrosive (to human tissue or metal)
- Ecotoxicity (harmful to the environment or organisms in it)
- Capacity, on contact with air or water, to develop one or more of the above properties.
Who can carry out a COSHH assessment? It is the legal responsibility of the employer to carry out the assessment, but others can prepare it on their behalf, but whoever carries out the assessment they will need to:
- Have access to and understand the COSHH Regulations and relevant
- Approved Codes of Practice, or have access to someone who does.
- Be able to get all the necessary information and have the knowledge and
- experience to make correct decisions about the risks and the actions
One of the best sources of information about a Hazardous Substance is the supplier as by law all Hazardous Substance must be supplied with a Material Safety Data Sheet.
What is a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)? This is a document prepared by the supplier or manufacturer of the substance and it contains information on the potential hazards (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and how to work safely with the substance and information on;
- Safe use
- Safe storage
- Safe handling
- Emergency procedures all related to the hazards of the material
- Recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Exposure limits
Do I have to record a COSHH Assessment? Yes, if you employ 5 or more people then you must keep a written record of your assessment and what controls you have put in place to control the associated risks.
What next? The COSHH assessment should be a ‘living’ document, which is revisited when circumstances change, for example:
- There is reason to suspect the assessment is no longer valid.
- There has been a significant change in the work.
- The supplier or manufacturer has issued a new MSDS.
- The results of monitoring the employees exposure shows it to be necessary.
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