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Hazardous Substances

Using chemicals or other hazardous substances at work can put people's health at risk. So the law requires employers to control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health.

Every year exposure to hazardous substances at work effects the health of many thousands of people. Common examples include lung disease (e.g. dusty conditions), skin irritation, dermatitis or skin cancer (e.g. frequent contact with oils, contact with corrosive liquids), occupational asthma (e.g. sensitisation to isocyanates in paints or adhesives), toxic fumes, occupational cancer etc. The high costs of ill-health arise from loss of earnings, loss of productivity, prosecution and civil action amongst others.

The COSHH Regulations 2002 (as amended)

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations provide a framework to help protect people in the workplace against health risks from hazardous substances. The substances may be used directly in the work (e.g. cleaning chemicals, chemical reagents) or may arise from the work (e.g. dusts, fumes and waste products).

COSHH lays down a sensible step-by-step approach to the necessary precautions and is therefore a useful tool of good management. The potential for identifiable cost benefits (e.g. tighter control over the use and storage of materials), improved morale and industrial relations have been widely realised.

COSHH applies to virtually all substances hazardous to health. Exceptions include asbestos and lead (which have their own regulations) and substances which are hazardous only because they are radioactive, asphyxiants, at high pressure/temperature or have explosive/flammable properties.

COSHH requires the following:-

  • assessment of the risks
  • deciding what precautions are needed
  • prevention or control of the risks
  • ensuring that control measures are used and maintained
  • monitoring exposure and health surveillance, where necessary
  • informing, instructing and training employees about the risks and precautions needed.

Further Information

For further information on any of the above please contact us.

Updated: 24 Oct 2014
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