What is COSHH?
COSHH 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.
Most businesses use substances, products that are mixtures of substances. Some processes create substances. These could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people.
Sometimes substances are easily seen as harmful. Common substances such as paint, bleach or dust from natural materials may also be harmful.
Do we need to record COSHH assessments on a specific form?
No. Risk assessments may vary in their complexity, so you are free to use something that works for you. However, make sure you cover the key points:
• what are the dangers, and to whom, doing what task
• what control measures could prevent harm
• using these control measures and checking that they work
I have just completed the HSE COSHH essentials, is this sufficient to use as my COSHH assessment?
‘COSHH essentials’ produces generic advice. The legal requirement is that the risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’, so check that the downloaded sheets fully describe the task you do. If so, follow the advice in the sheets. Otherwise, think about how else you could use the advice to avoid workers’ health being harmed. You should take into account any information you have on levels of exposure, such as the results of monitoring, or health checks.
What are the ventilation requirements when working with hazardous substances, what do the regulations require?
Ventilation of the building – you need good general ventilation, which normally means five to 10 air-changes per hour – talk to a heating and ventilation engineer.
Ventilation of a process, usually called local exhaust ventilation (LEV) means extracting any gas, vapour, fume, mist or gas from a source of airborne contaminant. The rate of extraction depends on the size of the source. The shape of the hood that collects the contaminant cloud depends on the speed and direction of the contaminant cloud. You need to talk to a competent person.
Do the cleaning chemicals have to be kept in a locked cupboard?
Locking up cleaning chemicals is sensible if vulnerable people such as children or learning-impaired persons are able to gain access to them.
What needs to be included in a record of health surveillance?
• The person’s name and National Insurance number
• The substance they are exposed to, and when (start date, frequency of use)
• The surveillance test that is done on them, and the tester
• The outcome e.g. passed / retest / failed (but not the test data).
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