The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) applies to all workplaces in the UK. COSHH ensures that safe practices are followed when it comes to the use, handling, storage and disposal of substances hazardous to health.
If your place of business is found in breach of COSHH regulations, then significant fines or criminal charges could be brought against you.
To help you create a safer workplace and meet your legal responsibilities, there are 10 Golden Rules of COSHH. Here we work through what these are.
Why COSHH is Important in the Workplace
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) refines the responsibilities of employers and employees as mandated in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. While the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 deals with general obligations, the focus of COSHH is on how to safely work with hazardous substances.
Virtually every workplace in the UK uses substances that could be considered to be hazardous to health. Ensuring that employees are able to identify such substances and are aware of how to protect themselves will ensure a safer workplace for them or anyone else that may be affected.
What COSHH Considers to be Hazardous Substances
Any substance that has the potential to cause harm of any kind can be considered to be hazardous. COSHH considers hazardous substances to be anything that is corrosive, explosive or toxic or which can oxidise. A substance may have one hazardous property, or it may have several.
COSHH defines hazardous substances as:
- Products that contain chemicals
- Gases and asphyxiating gases
- Biological agents
- Germs that can cause diseases
The 10 Golden Rules of COSHH
There are 10 established golden rules of COSHH which are understood as being key to protecting employees and their colleagues.
Rule 1: Labels Must Be Legible
All hazardous substances containers must have labels that are clear and easily understood. Anyone using these substances must diligently follow the instructions for use.
Rule 2: Use the PPE Provided
By law, employers must provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to control for the hazards of the substances employee’s use. PPE can be disposable latex gloves or gowns, face masks, breathing apparatus, hard hats, reinforced shoes or other types of equipment.
Employees should understand how to use this PPE, and use it without fail. It is a legal duty of employees to work with employers to protect themselves.
Rule 3: Never Combine Hazardous Substances
Mixing chemicals can result in explosive, toxic or highly corrosive reactions. It can be fatal. Chemicals should only ever be mixed by trained staff in controlled environments.
Rule 4: Never Keep Hazardous Substances in Unmarked Containers
Chemicals should never be stored in unmarked containers. Any container that contains a hazardous substance should be clearly marked to show exactly what substance it holds.
Rule 5: Keep Hazardous Substances in Dedicated Containers
Wherever possible, hazardous substances should be kept in the container provided by the manufacturer. Hazardous substances must never be stored in bottles or containers that are used for any other purpose.
Rule 6: Be Aware of First Aid and Emergency Measures
Staff need to be able to react quickly and decisively if an accident or spill involving a hazardous substance occurs. To be able to do so, employers must ensure they are trained on what first aid arrangements are in place and what to do if an incident occurs.
It’s the employer’s duty to conduct first aid needs assessment prior to beginning operations. They must then ensure an adequate number of first aiders, equipment and other emergency measures are in place.
Rule 7: Store Hazardous Substances Properly
Hazardous substances should be kept in containers that are robust and fit for purpose. All hazardous substances need to be stored at the correct temperature in suitable shelving units or cupboards. They must be kept separate from any substances they may react with – for instance, acids and alkaline must be kept suitably apart.
Where necessary, hazardous substances may need to be kept in locked areas of storage units.
Rule 8: Report Any Potential Safety Issues
If an employee notices that any containers with hazardous substances are damaged, leaking, spilt or faulty, they must immediately report the issue to a supervisor.
Rule 9: Develop and Adhere to Safety Rules and Procedures
Employers and employees must work together to develop safe working practices. Safety rules must be stringently followed. This can be achieved by conducting a COSHH risk assessment regularly.
A COSHH risk assessment aims to identify risks posed by hazardous substances and to develop measures to eliminate or mitigate these risks. Risk assessments are a legal requirement under both COSHH regulations and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Rule 10: Always Report Any Incidents or Concerns Involving Hazardous Substances
If an employee has concerns about the safety measures or procedures concerning hazardous substances in the workplace, then they must report their concerns to a supervisor or an outside authority such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Any accidents or incidents involving hazardous substances should also be documented and reported.
Keep Your Workplace Safe with COSHH Health and Safety Training
While it is important to follow the 10 Golden Rules of COSHH, creating a safe workplace also means providing your people with adequate training. Health and safety training will make certain that your employees know how to work with hazardous substances safely and understand their responsibilities.
Human Focus offers you a wide range of professional, fully accredited health and safety training courses. The COSHH training courses give participants the knowledge they need to assess the risks of hazardous substances and develop practices to eliminate, reduce or mitigate these risks.
The COSHH training can be taken online in approximately 20 minutes. Trainees must pass an end-of-course test and, if successful, will be able to download a certificate of completion immediately. The Human Focus COSHH training course is recognised and approved by the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (IIRSM).
Explore all the Human Focus health and safety courses today!