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How to Control Hazardous Substances in the Workplace

How to Control Hazardous Substances in the Workplace

All businesses will need to know about and comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002. Whether you are a small enterprise, a start-up, a medium sized business or a corporate business, there are strict guidelines and procedures when it comes to hazardous and dangerous substances.

The COSHH Regulations essentially help businesses to assess the risks to health from chemicals on commercial premises and decide upon the controls and procedures that are needed. The regulations also ensure that the controls implemented work effectively, that there is communication to employees and workers about the health risks of hazardous substances and there is the provision for training of employees.

What is a Hazardous Substance?

A hazardous substance is a material that can cause harmful effects or injuries to employees in a number of ways whether by inhalation, ingestion or skin and body contact. Hazardous substances are used in workplaces and include gases, liquids, solids, fumes, concentration of dust and small particles and mists.

Examples of a hazardous substance can be dusty or fume-filled air which causes internal and lung problems. Using commercial cleaning products and working a great deal with water can cause dermatitis. Gas and chemical substances used in workshops can cause burns and injury if spilled.

The law covers hazardous substances in a number of ways and a variety of hazardous substances are clearly defined in law.

What are Control Measures?

Control measures are a combination of ways of working, operational procedures and equipment that will reduce the exposure and therefore risk to hazardous substances. These control measures need to be robustly implemented in the workplace as well as rigidly adhered to and regularly reviewed to ensure that they continue to operate effectively. There also needs to be a management level for the control measure to ensure that checks, maintenance and testing is regularly carried out.

An example of control equipment would be a gas cylinder storage cage which is used in the workplace to secure and lock away hazardous gas. An example of a controlled way of working would be to allow fumes to clear before removing protective clothing.

The COSHH Regulations Eight Principles

The COSHH regulations enforce eight principles that apply to hazardous substances to protect employees from accidents and injury.

1.    Business should ensure that there are appropriate control measures and processes to minimise the release and spread of hazardous substances in the workplace that could harm and injury employees.
2.    When control procedures and measures are being created and implemented, all channels, sources and routes of release and spread of hazardous substances should be researched and considered.
3.    When deciding upon and implementing procedures, the most effective controls should be put into place to minimise the release and spread of a hazardous substance.
4.    When operating control measures, depending on the level of risk and harm that can be caused by a hazardous substance, the appropriate level of protection and control should be afforded to that    particular hazardous substance and level of risk.
5.    The appropriate protective clothing should be used in combination with control measures and procedures if the control measures alone do not allow the complete elimination of hazardous substances.
6.    Businesses should ensure that the introduction of control procedures does not increase the risk to health and safety.
7.    All employees should be trained and informed on the control procedures in place and how to implement them if required and also the risks from hazardous substances on-site in the workplace.
8.    All control procedures should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they continue to be effective in controlling and protecting against hazardous substances.

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