The COSHH Regulations
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations were implemented in 2002 and are managed by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The aim of the legislation is to minimise the risk to workers in the course of their normal activities at work and to reduce the costs to industry, the public and individuals. Each year many workers, and some members of the public, become ill due to the effects of hazardous materials and substances in the workplace. These illnesses can include everything from skin conditions (such as dermatitis) right through to potentially lethal cancers and respiratory illnesses. In terms of industry the costs can be significant, including loss of productivity through absence or, in more extreme circumstances, the loss of an individual worker. For businesses this can mean severe financial implications which include the need to replace a worker and provide training for the new member of staff. For the taxpayer the costs of disability payments related to these issues can be high, while for individuals and their families the impact can be devastating.
Safety, Success and Growth
For businesses the primary aim of making a profit is often a significant consideration. However, a healthy, capable workforce is one key part of achieving this aim. The costs in terms of sickness, absence, or even prosecution in cases of negligence, can be crippling and can have a severe impact on businesses of any size. The COSHH regulations are in place not only to protect workers but to provide a framework in which safe working practices contribute to your businesses success and growth.
Which Businesses Should Comply with COSHH?
Many substances, some surprising ones included, can lead to illness if not carefully handled and stored. Fumes and dust in many industrial processes can lead to lung disease or asthma and many manufacturing process will generate this type of potential contaminant. Paints, glues, lubricants and even some products used in the beauty industry (dyes, bleaches etc) are potentially harmful to both employees and members of the public. Dermatitis and other skin conditions can result in whole range of business settings, including working with plants, cement or in wet environments such as kitchens. Few businesses have no hazardous substances in either their premises or their processes and this means that COSHH regulations should be a matter of concern to all employers.
How to Manage Risks from Controlled Substances
While most businesses will have some harmful chemicals or substances the good news is that with proper management and handling these should not pose risks to your employees or customers.
COSHH Risk Assessment, hazardous substance training and, if necessary, personal protective equipment or clothing, are all simple ways in which to reduce the risk and avoid health problems. The first step to proper management of the risks is to identify the substances that may cause harm. Each substance should be identified and the available information on them examined. Information should come with the product itself, or you can check with suppliers as to the risks involved with a particular chemical or product. The next step is to establish how the substance can be dangerous; contact with skin and eyes, swallowing, or breathing in substances from the atmosphere are the most common risks. In the case of each potential hazard, with this information to hand, necessary steps, processes and equipment or clothing can then be put in place for employees to ensure their safety. Some hazardous substances may need to be stored in secured areas, flammable substances should be given careful attention and only trained staff with appropriate equipment and clothing should be allowed access to these areas.