Hazardous substances are used every day in a diverse range of workplaces. The use of hazardous substances is governed by COSHH guidelines, which carry harsh penalties for noncompliance.
But is COSHH a legal requirement for your business? Keep reading to find out.
What is COSHH?
COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. The purpose of COSHH is to protect employees and members of the public from being exposed to any substance that could cause harm. This could be a short-term negative health effect, such as a burn from a harsh chemical. Or, it could be a long-term condition, such as a lung disease that develops after years of exposure to dust.
The COSHH regulations state explicitly that ‘every employer shall ensure that the exposure of his employees to substances hazardous to health is either prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.’
Suppose you own or manage a business or work as a self-employed person. In that case, you must follow the COSHH guidelines about using, storing and handling hazardous substances. . Anyone that doesn’t comply with COSHH regulations could face stiff penalties.
What Happens If You Don’t Follow COSHH Regulations?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the main body in the UK with the power to enforce regulations such as COSHH. The HSE could investigate your business if a complaint is filed or if it has any reason to believe you’re in breach of the legislation.
The HSE can issue warnings and shut your business down until changes are made. It can also bring criminal charges against you. Being found guilty of a COSHH breach can result in unlimited fines or even a prison sentence.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that all health and safety laws are adhered to. However, employers and employees can be personally liable for breaches of UK health and safety legislation.
Penalties for COSHH breaches can be severe. In 2020, Swindon furniture company Oak Furnitureland was found guilty of failing to protect workers from exposure to solvents and wood dust and properly conducting COSHH risk assessments. The parent company, JB Global, was fined £398,000 and ordered to pay additional costs of £94,904.
Does COSHH Apply to Your Business?
Put simply, yes! COSHH more than likely applies to your business. Most workplaces store or use substances that can be considered hazardous under the COSHH regulations. Everyday cleaning products like bleach, for example, are categorised as dangerous.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your workplace is or how many employees you have. Any business that has staff must abide by the COSHH regulations. Suppose you don’t have any employees, but you take hazardous substances into areas where there are other people. In that case, you must follow all COSHH guidelines. The only exceptions are those relating to employee monitoring and health surveillance.
As a rule, it makes sense to always follow COSHH guidelines. Doing so will protect you, your employees and the public from harm. Follow the COSHH rules to ensure you stay within the law.
How to Comply with COSHH Requirements
COSHH states that self-employed people and employers must ensure that exposure to ‘substances hazardous to health is either prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.’
In practice, it means employers must take all reasonable steps to avoid working with hazardous substances. If the work can’t be avoided, then you must do a COSHH assessment. Once the risk assessment has been completed and the hazards identified, adequate risk control precautions must be implemented. Employers must also develop emergency procedures, implement monitoring and health surveillance systems and ensure employees get adequate training.
Employees are responsible for ensuring they understand the risks involved in their work. They must follow all control measures and participate in training.
Where to Find Online COSHH Training
You must comply with COSHH regulations, whether an employer or a self-employed person. COSHH training is the best way to avoid penalties and protect yourself and your colleagues.
Our online training course teaches participants everything they need to know to comply with COSHH guidelines. Trainees learn to identify risks, conduct COSHH risk assessments and implement effective control measures. This training can be completed online in one sitting or in segments to fit your work schedules. Don’t delay! Get your training sorted today because COSHH is a legal requirement!