What is a COSHH Assessment?
A COSHH Assessment is a risk assessment that focuses solely on hazardous substances in the workplace. The purpose of this assessment is to decide on what control measures need to be put in place to prevent or adequately control the exposure of their employees to substances hazardous to health.
A COSHH risk assessment will also identify any substances hazardous to health which employees are liable to be exposed and in a form that can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Does Your Workplace Require a COSHH Assessment?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations requires any business that uses or creates substances that may cause harm to their employees to control the risk and best practice would be to conduct an assessment to fulfil this legal requirement.
This applies to most harmful substances including biological agents; however, lead and asbestos are covered by separate regulations which you should also read up on if these are a concern to you.
How to Carry Out a COSHH Assessment
A COSHH Assessment can be complicated if you have no experience in carrying them out which is why most companies opt to outsource support in this area.
The main goals and steps for a COSHH Assessment are:
- Identifying the hazardous substances
- Identifying the risks to health
- Providing control measure to reduce the risk
- Monitoring this regularly
To identify the hazardous substances, you should walk around your workplace and decide where there may be any exposure to things such as dust or gas emitted from workplace processes. It is best to do this on a typical working day so that nothing is missed or forgotten.
You should then gather any harmful products that you use or store and read the product labels and material safety data sheets which will provide all the information that you need on these items.
If in doubt, contact your supplier.
You’ll then need to decide who is at harm from each of these and what the risks are. For example, an employee carrying out a process in the workplace that produces a harmful gas would be putting themselves and any colleagues in the surrounding area at risk of inhaling this gas.
It is important to clarify whether the risk is through inhalation, absorption etc. so that it makes it easier to decide on control measures later on.
In most cases, it is the person working with the hazardous substance who is the most at risk but there are instances where most, if not all, of your employees may be exposed.
Following this, you should also refer to your Accident Book which will highlight any areas of concern that you may not have picked up on yourself e.g. multiple people getting burnt from splashes.
Your Material Safety Data Sheets also play an important role in COSHH Assessments because they describe the hazards the chemical presents, and give information on handling, storage and emergency measures in case of accident.
Next, you will need to look over all these risks and decide on what control measures can be put in place to remove, or adequately reduce, the risk. It is worth noting any control measures that you already have set up and whether they are sufficient enough or need improving.
Some of the most common safety measures to be introduced as a result of COSHH assessments are PPE, particularly dust masks and gloves, employee training and improving systems of work.
There may even be some cases where you could find an alternative, safer substance to replace a more hazardous one – or ask yourself, do you need to use this substance at all?
The most important step that needs to take place is action. It is all well and good conducting a COSHH Assessment but if you don’t take the information and apply it to the workplace then it was all a waste of time. Use all the above and put the control measures in place as quickly as possible.
If you have five or more employees, then you need to have a written record of this assessment and ensure that it is communicated with all employees, so they are aware of the dangers and the control measures that are being introduced.
However, we would advise that even if you do have less than five employees that you still make sufficient notes of your findings to make any future assessments a little easier and to have documentation that you can refer to if need be.
You should also regularly review and update your COSHH assessment, typically on an annual basis, to ensure that you have remained safe and compliant with any changes in regulation or to your business.
If all of this sounds like more work than you can take on right now, we are more than happy to carry out a COSHH Assessment for your business.
Our qualified Health and Safety Consultants have years of experience in conducting COSHH risk assessments, so they can promptly do the work and documentation for you to ensure that you are safe and compliant and all you have to do is pick up the phone and call us today on 0845 2626 260