What your employees need to know about COSHH

Are your employees exposed to harmful substances at the workplace?  You probably know the risks, but do you know how to mitigate them?  Moreover, do your workers know how to protect themselves and others from such hazards?  Awareness is crucial in creating a safe working environment for everyone, and both employees and employers play a vital role in achieving this.  For this reason, COSHH came to be.  But what is COSHH, and how does it apply in the workplace?  Read on to find out.

What is COSHH

COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health.  As the name implies, it is a set of regulations that instructs employers and employees how to handle, store, utilize and dispose of dangerous substances at work.  The primary goal of COSHH is to ensure that workers and clients are safe from the hazardous effects of harmful substances by limiting their exposure to such materials and reducing the risk of injury and sickness.  Failure to comply with the regulations is punishable by law.

The Principles of COSSH

COSSH has eight principles that employers and employees must apply to attain successful and reliable risk control. One of the principles requires industries to minimise the emission and spread of harmful substances in the workplace. Businesses must consider how employees are exposed, choose countermeasures proportional to the threats, and employ sound control options. The principles also stress the importance of using personal protective equipment (PPE) when risks are impossible to eliminate. Evaluating the effectiveness of the controls, providing training to employees, and ensuring the countermeasures do not increase the hazards are equally vital.

COSSH Assessment

Individuals, industries, businesses, or workplaces that use, produce, and create any substance that is possibly harmful to one’s health should undergo a COSSH assessment.  The assessment has three steps: identifying the hazards, knowing who is at risk, and reducing the threats. 

The first step involves determining which substances in the workplace can potentially harm employees and clients. Hazardous substances and materials include chemicals, fumes, dust, vapours, mists, gases, and biological agents such as germs.

Next, assessors decide who is vulnerable to the risks, how the hazard spread, how they affect those exposed, and to what extent. Individuals in danger of being harmed include employees, contractors, cleaning staff, site visitors, and customers, specifically in a salon setting. Typical routes of exposure are inhalation, skin contact, eating, smoking, and transfer due to contaminated surfaces or hands.

The end result of the assessment is a detailed report listing the hazardous substances found in the workplace and how to handle them safely.  There are six methods of controlling the risk: elimination, substitution, engineering, administration, and PPE usage.

COSSH Training

All employees working in industries or environments where they may come in contact with hazardous substances or materials must undergo COSSH training courses that can be completed online.  Such professions include builders, cleaning and maintenance staff, engineers, construction workers, oil and gas workers, painters, farmers, decorators, mechanics, and salon workers. 

With training, employees will not only be able to identify which substances are harmful.  They will also learn how to protect themselves from risks and know how to handle emergencies.  It also enables them to understand the guidelines more, leading to better compliance with the health and safety laws. More importantly, proper training helps create a working environment that is secure and safe for everyone.

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