How to control chemical hazards in the workplace

How to control chemical hazards in the workplace

What does COSHH mean to you?

Chemicals are everywhere, though they are so commonplace that many people fail to recognise them as hazards. Whether you are an engineering company, a caterer, cleaning company, or involved with agriculture, printing, automotive repairs, or even a sole hairdresser – among hundreds of other occupations and industrial sectors – you and your employees are likely to come into contact with chemicals that are hazardous to health. This may be by storing chemicals, transporting them, or working with them.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to protect your employees and visitors from all chemical hazards in your workplace. This article will introduce you to how to do so.

What is a chemical hazard?

Chemicals are all around us, even in the things we eat. A chemical hazard is caused by exposure to chemicals which may be harmful to health. The extent of the hazard is determined by many factors, including what the chemical is, if (and what) it is mixed with, and how much of the chemical you may be exposed to.

There is a lot of chemical-related legislation that dictates how chemicals are classified and how they may be worked with, transported, and disposed of. Which laws apply to you and how you must apply them depends on your organisation’s circumstances (for example, what it does).

However, all workplaces are subject to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.

What types of injuries and illnesses can chemical hazards cause?

Exposure to chemicals in the workplace has been attributed to a wide range of illnesses and injuries, including:

  • Cancers
  • Skin diseases
  • Respiratory issues
  • Blindness

It can take as little as 10 seconds for permanent damage to be done by a hazardous chemical.

What are your COSHH responsibilities?

COSHH legislation aims to prevent or control exposure to substances that are hazardous to health, so as to prevent ill health and injury. It lays down three areas in which you directly have responsibilities under the law:

1.      Control with equipment

This includes equipment that ventilates, extracts, and contains hazardous chemicals.

2.      Control by working practices

This relates to the control of hazards by specific processes and procedures, including supervision and training. It also includes the provision of emergency procedures, maintenance, and decontamination processes. You have a responsibility to test control measures regularly, and should keep records of equipment testing and servicing for at least five years.

3.      Control by working behaviours

This relates to how your employees and visitors adopt and use control equipment and working practices, as may be defined in your health and safety policy and include:

  • Control with equipment
  • Control by working practices
  • Reporting hazards and dangerous situations, including accidents

What you should do

To make sure you comply with the law and keep your workplace safe from chemical hazards, you should carry out a COSHH risk assessment. This means:

  • Understanding specific risks of each chemical in the workplace
  • Evaluating the risks to health
  • Deciding on the measures needed to comply with the regulations
  • Recording the assessment (if you have five or more employees)
  • Reviewing as necessary (dependant upon risk, the work, and changes that occur)

You should also ensure that adequate training and supervision is provided.

Because of how common chemicals are in society and the workplace, the laws, rules, and regulations concerning chemical hazards are some of the widest-ranging of all UK legislation. The Sentry system takes the strain out of complying with them.

To book your free, no-obligation demo and discover an easier way to comply with health and safety laws in the workplace, contact Sentry today.

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