13th January, 2022

Under The COSHH?

COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. This set of regulations (The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) require you to control substances that are hazardous to health within your organisation. So what is exactly is under the COSHH?

Under The COSHH? header image

You've probably heard the phrase "under the COSH" before. And most of the time people use it, it probably has nothing to do with health and safety. It's more likely to mean being under pressure or in a difficult situation. But this is a blog post about health and safety, so let's take a look at what is under the COSHH.

What does COSHH mean?

In health and safety, COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. It literally means you must control hazardous substances to protect peoples health. These regulations require you, by law, to control substances that are hazardous to health within your workplace.

The COSHH regulations are not new. The history of COSHH goes back over 30 years. The latest (2002) version of the regulations is already nearly 20 years old. And the first version of COSHH got introduced way back in 1988.

Find out more about the introduction and development of COSHH in a brief history of the COSHH regulations.*

It's kind of fitting that if a substance comes under the COSHH, you are under pressure to deal with it, just like the saying.

So what is exactly is 'under the COSHH?'

What's under the COSHH?

COSHH applies a variety of substances that can be found and used at work. Cleaning products, paints, inks, chemicals. Any substance that could be harmful to those handling it.

And that doesn't always mean it would burn or corrode skin in immediate contact. Or that it would poison someone instantly. A harmful substance might irritate the skin, or cause breathing problems, or make your eyes sting.

And it doesn't just apply to substances you purchase either. You might also create hazardous substances in your work processes, like mixtures, fumes and dust.

substance mixture

Nearly every workplace will contain substances that can be hazardous to health.

The COSHH regulations apply to:

Find out more about the types of substances COSHH applies to in what substances does COSHH cover?

You can identify substances that fall under the COSHH regulations, usually when you purchase them. Check the safety information on labels and the information provided by suppliers (usually on a safety data sheet, hazard data sheet or other similar product information sheet). The information provided and the symbols displayed will tell you what hazards are involved.

But remember we said that you might also create COSHH substances at work? You should also consider what substances fall under the COSHH regulations that you didn't purchase but that you produce as a result of your work processes.

To identify substances produced during work activities, look for processes that could emit dust, fumes, vapours, mist or gas.

What to do about COSHH

So now we have an idea of what substances are covered under the COSHH regulations (essentially any potentially hazardous substances), what do the COSHH regulations require us to do about them? After all, most businesses will use hazardous substances in some form or another, even an office environment will use cleaning chemicals for example.

Under the COSHH regulations, employers are required to control substances that are hazardous to health, through prevention or reduction of exposure.

You can use a [COSHH inventory]https://www.haspod.com/blog/coshh/benefits-coshh-inventory) to list the substances you have identified. Keeping a COSHH inventory will help you keep a track of the substances in your workplace, and the actions you take to control them.

But just knowing what substances are harmful isn't enough. The regulations are called the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. So must control them.


Luckily, the regulations set out what you need to do. First, you will assess the risk, and then you will decide how best to control it.

The COSHH regulations require a COSHH assessment to be carried out before any activities take place that uses, involve or expose employees to substances that are hazardous to health.

Find out more about why COSHH assessments are needed in the purpose of COSHH assessments and why every business needs them.

By completing a COSHH risk assessment, you will be able to decide which COSHH control measures are needed to prevent or control the exposure of employees to substances hazardous to health.

COSHH assessments are a legal requirement. If you're under the COSHH to produce a COSHH assessment, we have COSHH assessment templates available for you to use for common substances.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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