A COSHH assessment is a systematic examination of a task or process that involves using a potentially hazardous substance. A COSHH Assessment is carried out for the purpose of identifying hazardous substances you may use, whether the precautions you have taken are acceptable and what control measures are in place.
We have detailed these further below:
- Identifying the substances that you use that are potentially hazardous (a hazard is something that has the potential to cause someone harm or ill health).
- Deciding whether the precautions you have already taken reduces the risk of someone being harmed to an acceptable level, and if not;
- Deciding on what further control measures you must take to prevent or control the exposure to an acceptable level.
Hazardous substances include;
- Substances used directly in work activities (e.g adhesives, paints, cleaning agents)
- Substances generated during work activities (e.g fumes from soldering and welding)
- Naturally occurring substances (e.g grain dust)
- Biological agents such as bacteria and other micro-organisms.
Effects of Hazardous Substances Examples of the effects of hazardous substances include;
- Skin irritation or dermatitis as a result of skin contact;
- Asthma as a result of developing an allergy to substances used at work;
- Losing consciousness as a result of being overcome by toxic fumes;
- Cancer, which may appear long after the exposure to the chemical that caused it;
- Infection from bacteria and other micro-organisms (biological agents).
What COSHH requires
To comply with COSHH you need to follow these eight steps:
Step 1. Assess the risks;
Decide what the risks to health are from hazardous substances used or created by your work
Step 2. Decide what precautions are required;
Do not carry out work which might expose your employees to hazardous substances.
Step 3. Prevent or control exposure.
First try to prevent exposure to hazardous substances, if this is not possible you must control the exposure to defined limits.
Step 4. Make sure any control measures are used and maintained
Step 5. Monitor the exposure of the substance to your employees where a risk assessment has deemed it necessary
Step 6. Health surveillance.
Carry out health surveillance where your risk assessment has shown it to be necessary.
Step 7. Prepare an emergency plan.
Draw up plans to deal with emergencies such as spillages etc
Step 8. Make sure your employees are properly informed, trained and supervised.