COSHH Regulations 2002 & Hazardous Substances in the Workplace

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The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH 2002) aim to protect workers and others from the harmful health effects of substances used at work.

These hazardous materials in the workplace are substances that can be used directly in work activities (e.g. adhesives, paints, cleaning agents), be generated during work activities (e.g. fumes from soldering and welding), or comprise naturally occurring substances (e.g. grain dust and microorganisms). Hazardous materials in the workplace can take many forms, including; chemical hazards in the workplace, fumes, dust, vapours, mists, gases etc.

What Do I Need To Do When Handling Hazardous Materials In The Workplace?

Handling hazardous materials in the workplace is an issue you must take seriously.

To comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH 2022), you must:

  • Assess the risks
  • Decide what precautions are needed
  • Prevent or adequately control exposure
  • Ensure that control measures are used and maintained
  • Monitor the exposure
  • Carry out appropriate health surveillance
  • Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies
  • Ensure employees are adequately informed, trained and supervised

How Do I Get COSHH Information On The Different Hazardous Substances In The Workplace I Use?

You can find relevant information about most COSHH Substances from the COSHH regulations safety data sheets – sometimes known as Material or Chemical safety data sheets.

Hazardous substances in the workplace Safety Data sheets describe the hazards the chemical presents and give information on handling any hazardous substances in the workplace, storing chemicals in the workplace and emergency measures in case of an accident. You can source them from the supplier and, in most cases, are available from the manufacturer’s website. Safety Data sheets are essential when completing a COSHH 2002 risk assessment – they are not a risk assessment in themselves!

Identifying COSH Substances & Types of Chemical Hazards in the Workplace

Depending on the types of chemical hazards in the workplace, your products may have a label with one or more hazard symbols. Since 2009, new international symbols (red and white diamond) have gradually replaced European (orange and Black Square) symbols. You should no longer see any old labelling styles on the market.

Not all COSHH substances are ‘chemicals’; COSHH regulations also cover other hazardous substances in the workplace. These can include dust or biological agents (bacteria and other micro-organisms) if they are connected directly with work (such as farming, sewage treatment, or healthcare.) Information about those hazardous materials in the workplace is available from other sources, particularly the HSE’s website.

COSHH regulations 2002 do not deal with lead or asbestos. These substances get covered by the ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012’ and the ‘Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002’. These regulations contain the applicable standards and responsibilities for controlling exposure to these substances.

COSHH 2002 FAQs

Is bleach a hazardous substance, and is it covered by COSHH 2002?

Bleach is 100% a hazardous substance and falls under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 legislation. COSHH 2002 classifies bleach as an irritant affecting the eyes and skin. Due to bleaches getting classified as hazardous substances in the workplace, you will need to conduct a full risk assessment under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations 2002.

What are COSHH substances risk assessments?

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 focuses on any risks and hazards created by substances in your workplace. An important thing to note here is that it is not only assessing how you store hazardous materials in the workplace. Hazardous substances in the workplace don’t always come with a label attached and can include bi-products from processes, such as sawdust from sanding or cutting wood or silica gell dust from cutting tiles.

What do you consider to be a chemical hazard in the workplace?

Simply put, a chemical hazard in the workplace refers to any substance that could cause potential physical harm or health hazard to someone, regardless of the form of the substance. Hazardous chemicals in the workplace would also cover any substance that could potentially cause harm or damage to the environment. You should always carry out a full risk assessment when substances are brought into the working environment and refer to COSHH regulations 2002.

Is my business required to keep COSHH 2002 record?

Yes, all businesses must keep COSHH 2002 records. Any company using or producing hazardous materials in the workplace must maintain a ‘health record’ and keep it for at least 40 years.

My company employs a team of cleaners. Do they need any COSHH 2002 training?

If you have a cleaning company or employ a team of cleaners for your business premises, they will need continual COSHH 2002 training. They will always be working with potentially hazardous materials in the workplace and even different types of chemical hazards in the workplace. As the employer, you will need to ensure that they get appropriately trained on how to use and store hazardous substances in the workplace and ensure all employees are up to date with the control of substances hazardous to health regulations 2002.

When were COSHH regulations introduced in the UK?

COSHH regulations were initially introduced in the UK in 1988 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The regulations were first introduced to reduce occupational ill health and have gone through significant updates over the years. After COSHH regulations were first brought in in 1988, they saw major changes in 1994, 1999 and again in 2002, hence why it is now known as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, or COSHH 2002.