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Written by
on 03 October 2012


When using chemicals at work it is important to be aware of the laws surrounding health and safety.  There are many industries that have to use hazardous liquids and materials, or that create them through a process.  There are many different types of jobs where chemicals are present including

  • Lab technicians
  • Employees working in a chemical plant
  • Pest control workers
  • Hairdressing
  • Cleaners
  • Even in your own home

COSHH Assessments

Employers are demanded by law to control the use of chemicals using control measures and risk assessments. Chemicals can cause all sorts of health problems such as cancer, dermatitis and damage to the lungs.  They can also cause immediate problems for the user such as sore eyes and dizziness, so they need to be managed effectively right from the start. The laws are filed under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, also known as the COSHH.  It is up to you to make sure exposure to the chemicals and hazards are controlled by:

  • Identifying what the substances are that are hazardous
  • See who is at risk
  • Decide what measures are able to be put into practice to reduce the risks
  • Giving adequate information to workers including training and detailed instructions
  • When necessary creating health surveillance

Performing a COSHH Risk Assessment

When performing a risk assessment when hazardous substances are present you need to first identify what the hazards are. You can find out the information you require by reading the labels and data sheets that relate to each substance.  If you don’t have this information you will need to acquire it by talking to your supplier.  If the hazardous substance is caused by a process you will also need to identify them.

Once the substances have been identified the next part of the risk assessment is to decide who is likely to be affected. Think about the workers in direct contact, those in the vicinity and the public. Decide how they are at risk, could the substance be inhaled, could it cause damage to the skin or the eyes? You also need to think about those who could come into contact with the substance by accident and also how long the employees are exposed to the dangers through their work.

Evaluating the Risks

When you know the dangers and who is at risk it’s time to evaluate what the risks are and how you can introduce adequate precautions.

  • Is it possible to use a less hazardous substance?
  • Can you change working processes to stop the substances from being produced?
  • What control measures will reduce exposure?

The safety measures could include making sure that the substances are properly contained and the introduction of an extraction fan or system.  You may be able to limit the number of people in the area where the substance is used and ensure that the waste products are effectively removed.  Keeping areas clean and having systems in place to cope with spillages is also vital.

Health and safety consultants can help you identify any areas of weakness where dangerous substances are concerned. If you require assistance call us on 0800 1488 677.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.