What is the Difference Between Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and COSHH Assessments?

COSHH and SDS assessments

While Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) assessments are both necessary for assessing the risks involved in dealing with hazardous substances in the workplace, some in the industry may be confused about the difference between the two.

Whether you are a retailer, chemical distributor, or manufacturer; understanding the difference between Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and COSHH is essential for ensuring your employees’ safety. In this article, we discuss the key differences between the two along with the importance of employers ensuring worker safety when chemicals must be handled.

What is a Safety Data Sheet?

According to UK REACH Regulation, every manufacturer or importer is required by law to provide a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for any hazardous material they sell.

A SDS provides in-depth and detailed information than is on the product label. It describes the hazards associated with a certain chemical product and provides information on how to handle and store the product. Additionally, it also lists emergency measures that should be taken in case of any accidents or spills in the workplace.

Whilst the information contained on an SDS may seem complex for day to day work, they have important uses. They are a vital source of information for employers when they conduct risk assessments for any hazardous substances in their workplace.

In addition, if you were accidentally exposed to a hazardous substance and needed to run to the A&E, it’s vital to bring Safety Data Sheets for that substance along with you.  This will provide doctors with key information they need to know when treating you.

What is a COSHH Assessment?

COSHH assessments are thorough risk assessments for specific hazardous substances in a working environment. The COSHH regulations require employers to carry out COSHH assessments, if their employees are regularly exposed to hazardous substances in the workplace. Failure to do so is a breach of health and safety law.

A COSHH risk assessment provides valuable insight on the safety and health hazards posed by hazardous products in a workplace, along with required exposure control measures, spillage containment, and disposal requirements. A COSHH assessment identifies substances and activities that may potentially be hazardous to workers and their health.

Where an SDS is more technical, a COSHH assessment provides workers with practical information that they need to do their jobs safely.

Can A Data Sheet Substitute A COSHH Risk Assessment?

No. A safety data sheet (SDS) cannot substitute a COSHH risk assessment alone. It is merely a resource that a health and safety professional can use when conducting a COSHH risk assessment.

Safety data sheets contain crucial information about working with hazardous substances such as disposal requirements, exposure control measures, first aid requirements. In an ideal setting, a health and safety professional uses this sheet to understand the facts required to prevent and control exposure to a product’s hazards.

Getting COSHH Right

Explaining the difference between Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and COSHH assessments is just one of the ways Human Focus can help your company with responsible chemical management. Human Focus offers a number of different ROSPA-assured online training courses regarding the safe handling of chemicals in the workplace. These courses enable employers to implement a robust chemical management system that ensures worker safety at all times.

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Joe Vickers
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