Under the COSHH regulations, employers have a number of important duties to protect the health of employees and other people likely to be affected by their work with hazardous substances.
Employers COSHH responsibilities include:
These COSHH responsibilities are legal requirements, so it is important that employers understand their duties, and implement them in their workplace(s).
Let's go through these responsibilities in a bit more detail, and talk about the steps that are needed to comply with COSHH.
The first thing you should do as an employer is to carry out a COSHH assessment. This involves identifying the hazardous substances used or created in your work activities and assessing the risk.
COSHH assessments are a legal requirement, so it's important to have these in place.
7.—(1) 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.
Sometimes, it's possible to prevent exposure to hazardous substances entirely, by substituting them for a non-hazardous alternative, or by altering the process to exclude people from the possibility of coming into contact with a substance.
If exposure cannot be prevented entirely, it should be controlled.
Just putting control measures in place is not the end of your employer responsibilities.
You must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that those control measures are properly used.
For example, it's not good enough to just provide goggles where there is a risk of splashing, you must ensure that they are worn.
Control measures are only effective if they work. Employers have a duty under COSHH to make sure that control measures are maintained.
9.—(1) Every employer who provides any control measure to meet the requirements of regulation 7 shall ensure that, where relevant, it is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order, in good repair and in a clean condition.
To comply with this requirement, it is important to make sure that any control measures put in place as a result of your COSHH assessment are maintained, including regular testing and examination where required.
Monitoring of exposure may be required in some instances, particularly if the substance is subject to a workplace exposure limit (WEL), or you need to monitor to ensure that exposure is being adequately controlled.
Where monitoring is required, it should be done at regular intervals and records kept.
Certain high-risk substances such as potassium in manufacturing require health surveillance. These substances are detailed within schedule 6 of the regulations.
Health surveillance may also be appropriate where an employees exposure may lead to a disease or adverse health effect which can be detected early through regular checkups.
There is certain information your employees should know about COSHH. Such as what substances they are exposed to at work and the risks of those substances, any exposure limits, and the details of the COSHH assessment for the substance.
They need to know about the precautions and controls in place to protect them, and training on how to use them.
Need to make your employees aware of COSHH? Start with the free COSHH Regulations Toolbox Talk.
12.—(1) Every employer who undertakes work which is liable to expose an employee to a substance hazardous to health shall provide that employee with suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training.
What would happen if a control measure failed, or a hazardous substance was leaked, or a fire broke out in the storage area?
Accidents, incidents and emergencies can happen, and when hazardous substances are involved, it can make matters worse.
Fumes, flammable substances, explosions, gases under pressure - what's the worse that could happen in any given situation?
As an employer, you have a responsibility to plan for emergencies and make sure that procedures are in place to deal with any such events and minimise the possible effects.
Remember, one of the first employer responsibilities under COSHH is to carry out COSHH assessments for any substances hazardous to health in your workplace.