There are 3 key parties who have responsibilities under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations:
The employer has the overall responsibility for COSHH in the workplace. They must make sure that COSHH assessments are carried out, and controls are in place to protect employees from exposure to hazardous substances.
Employees have duties to comply with COSHH and properly use any controls measures put in place to protect them. However, it is the employer who is responsible for assessing the risk and putting the necessary controls and procedures in place.
Under COSHH, self-employed persons have the responsibilities of both the employer and employees (apart from monitoring and health surveillance).
COSHH applies to every workplace, and that doesn't have to just be your main place of work, “workplace” under COSHH means any premises or part of premises used for or in connection with work.
6.—(1) An employer shall not carry out work which is liable to expose any employees to any substance hazardous to health unless he has— (a) made a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk created by that work to the health of those employees and of the steps that need to be taken to meet the requirements of these Regulations;
We recently wrote a blog post on COSHH employer responsibilities for more details on the employer duties under COSHH.
So now we know that employers are responsible, and what they are responsible for, what happens when your employees are working at another premises, or you are working on a site or project with multiple employers?
Your employer responsibilities under COSHH can be straightforward to manage when you are working in your own premises. But what if you are working on your customer's sites?
For example, a cleaner visiting different workplaces using cleaning products, a hairdresser visiting peoples homes using beauty products, or a contractor completing maintenance work, a large refurbishment or an extension project creating dust and using building products and substances.
In many industries, it is common to work within other employers premises, and these will often be occupied. It is likely hazardous substances covered by the COSHH regulations will be involved since they are present in almost all work environments.
Firstly, it is important to note that if you are a contractor, sub-contractor or self-employed you have the duties and responsibilities of an employer under the COSHH regulations, in respect of your responsibilities to your employees and others affected by your works. The self-employed also have duties of both employers and employees under COSHH.
No matter where your employees are, you still need to comply with your employer responsibilities.
What happens when there are two or more employers in a workplace or site? This happens all the time when businesses get contractors in for specific items of work, or two or more businesses work together on a project.
Does the occupying employer take the COSHH responsibilities as it is their premises? Does the main contractor take the responsibilities if they are managing the works? Does each employer take responsibility for their own employees?
Where your employees are working at other employers premises, both you and the other employer(s) have duties under the COSHH regulations.
Rather than each taking responsibility for the safety of your own workforces independently, you each have duties to your own employees and, so far as is reasonably practicable, to the employees of the other employer(s).
To make sure that all COSHH duties are fulfilled, you should co-operate and collaborate with the other employer(s).
You should not be expected to manage risks that are created by another employer - they should take the responsibility to manage the risks of their activities and substances, controlling exposure to their own employees and your employees if they are likely to be affected.
It is easy to only concentrate on managing your own risks when planning your work - in terms of COSHH responsibilities this would be just looking at the substances used or produced by your own activities on site.
However, where your employees are working within occupied premises, there may be substances hazardous to health that are used or produced on the premises that you are not familiar with, particularly if you are working within industrial, manufacturing or medical premises.
Just as the occupier will need to know about any substances hazardous to health that they may be exposed to from your work, you and your employees will also need to know about any substances hazardous to health that they may be exposed to by working within the premises.
Other employers should provide you with sufficient detail to allow you to provide information and instruction to your employees so that they can comply with the control measures in place.
Raise awareness of COSHH responsibilities with the free COSHH toolbox talk, download it today and give your team a quick refresher.