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Every year, thousands of workers are made ill by hazardous substances, contracting lung disease such as asthma, cancer and skin disease such as dermatitis. These diseases cost many millions of pounds each year to: industry, to replace the trained worker; society, in disability allowances and medicines; and individuals, who may lose their jobs.

COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002) is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. You can prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances by:

  • finding out what the health hazards are;

  • deciding how to prevent harm to health (risk assessment);

  • providing control measures to reduce harm to health;

  • making sure they are used ;

  • keeping all control measures in good working order;

  • providing information, instruction and training for employees and others;

  • providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases;

  • planning for emergencies.

Substances can take many forms and include:

  • chemicals

  • products containing chemicals

  • fumes

  • dusts

  • vapours

  • mists

  • nanotechnology

  • gases and asphyxiating gases and

  • biological agents (germs). If the packaging has any of the hazard symbols then it is classed as a hazardous substance.

  • germs that cause diseases such as leptospirosis or legionnaires disease and germs used in laboratories.

III health caused by these substances used at work is preventable. Many substances can harm health but, used properly, they almost never do. You need to know how workers are exposed, and to how much, before you can decide if you need to do anything to reduce their exposure. The COSHH Regulations require employers to assess the risk to their employees, and to prevent or adequately control those risks.

Control measures are always a mixture of equipment and ways of working to reduce exposure. The right combination is crucial. No measures, however practical, can work unless they are used properly. So any ‘standard operating procedure’ should combine the right equipment with the right way of working. This means instructing, training and supervising the workers doing the tasks.

For further help in ensuring you are COSHH compliant, and are adequately protecting your workforce from the risks substances in your business present, please contact us here.

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