Hazard Substance Law: What is COSHH?

COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health.

You can prevent or reduce workers' exposure to hazardous substances by:

  • finding out what the health hazards are;
  • deciding how to prevent harm to health;
  • providing control measures to reduce harm to health;
  • making sure they are used;
  • keeping all control measures in good working order;
  • providing information, instruction and training for employees and others;
  • providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases;
  • planning for emergencies.

Means: Control of Substances Hazardous to Health

What does it cover?

  • COSHH covers chemicals, products containing chemicals, fumes, dusts, vapours, mists and gases, and biological agents (germs). If the packaging has any of the hazard symbols then it is classed as a hazardous substance.
  • COSHH also covers asphyxiating gases.
  • COSHH covers germs that cause diseases such as leptospirosis or legionnaires' disease: and germs used in laboratories.
  • COSHH doesn't cover lead, asbestos or radioactive substances because these have their own specific regulations.
Click here for key COSHH Legislation

How to get COSHH savvy

The HSE has a free downloadable guide called 'Working with substances hazardous to health' - which is a brief overview of COSHH. This guide explains that hazardous substances make thousands of workers ill by contracting lung diseases such as asthma; cancer and skin diseases such as dermatitis. As a result these diseases cost many millions of pounds to industry, society and individuals. The guide illustrates how you should assess the risk of your own COSHH substances and what control measures you should have in place to reduce employee exposure.

COSHH training is required as it will allow employees to identify, measure and control the exposure to harmful substances, and as a result will safeguard your employees. A COSHH training course should provide you with:
  • An understanding of how and which substances can harm health
  • Knowledge and definitions of exposure limits
  • Skills to understand exposure and to conduct COSHH risk assessments
  • A greater understanding of practical control measures and safe systems of work

COSHH symbols and meanings

The hazardous substances mentioned above also have international symbols to allow you to understand the different hazards within your organisation.

COSHH symbols and meanings

Click here for our COSHH symbols quiz

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