What is COSHH and why is it important?

What is COSHH? COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations that were amended in 2002.  It is regulatory requirements that are used to ensure that all staff, guests, and people around them are protected against hazards.  Here are some things that are recommended to employers that have controlled substances:

  • Provide proper instruction and training to all employees on how to handle the substance.  
  • Plan for any emergencies and have procedures in place for this.
  • Make sure they are actually being used.  
  • Find out what the health hazards are for that particular substance.
  • Do a risk assessment on how to best protect people using the substance as well as those around the area.  
  • Provide a plan on how they are going to control the substance.
  • In some cases, monitoring the health of those exposed

What sort of products does COSHH protect against?

COSHH regulations protect people from exposure to hazardous substances such as:

  • Dust
  • Fumes
  • Chemicals
  • Mists
  • Vapors
  • Gasses
  • Biological agents (germs)

Proper training should be provided by employers to ensure everyone is working in a safe environment.  There are 5 golden rules that everyone should learn during this training.  Let’s go over these now.

1-Do not mix chemicals

Mixing chemicals, unless you are a trained scientist can lead to very bad outcomes.  This can even be simple household products.  Do not mix cleaning substances as it can cause deadly gases to form.  If your cleaning chemical isn’t doing the job, then wipe it up with straight water and clear the area before trying something else.  Most of the time mixing chemicals occur without someone thinking about them or using adequate control measures.

2-Only use products approved by your company

If you don’t like the chemical provided by the company, do not bring in your own.  The company has to have a risk assessment done on every chemical on-site.  This means that you could be going against the COSHH risk assessment. 

3-Store Chemicals properly

COSHH regulations determine how the chemicals should be stored.  You should store acids away from alkanes and bleach away from everything.  The cleaning chemicals should be kept in locked closets so that untrained personnel cannot get at them and cause harm to themselves or others. 

4-Only use labeled products

If you have something that doesn’t have a clear label on it, don’t use it.  The container could contain just about anything.  Do not assume what is in it based on experience or smell.

5-Always wear proper protection

Always wear the recommended personal protective equipment in order to ensure that you are working with the substance in a safe manner.  The COSHH guidelines can assist with this.  Proper COSHH training will also help you to fully understand what should be worn for your situation.

Another thing to consider is never using a substance for other reasons than what it is intended for.   The company must keep material safety data sheets on site that will explain how to use the products safely.  Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, First, add the water that you plan to use and then the cleaner or chemical to ensure there is no splashing.  Always remember that more doesn’t always mean better.  Follow the proper instructions and use the substances as they were intended in order to prevent harm to health.