Thousands of employees across the United Kingdom are forced to work daily within hazardous environments. Whether referring to the presence of toxic fumes, potentially explosive gases or deadly chemicals, such risks need to be taken quite seriously. Compliance with COSHH regulations is a critical requirement within the workplace.
COSHH is an acronym for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. It is your responsibility as an employer to determine what hazards may be present as well as how they can be mitigated to protect your workers. As this might be unfamiliar, we have put together this brief COSHH risk assessment guide to take much of the guesswork out of the equation. Let’s take a closer look.
What is COSHH Risk Assessment?
The main intention of this process is to proactively identify any substances within a workplace that might pose dangers to employees. Of course, not all of these may be overtly apparent. Some common examples of substances forming part of a COSHH assessment would include:
- Dust and fumes from manufacturing processes
- Oil and lubricants – for example for compressors
- Cleaning chemicals
Airborne hazards can lead to serious health conditions such as chronic bronchitis, COPD and even some forms of cancer. A COSHH assessment intends to systematically identify the substances that may be present, identify who may be at risk, then evaluate these risks – and put in place mitigating actions.
It can be advisable to employ a third party to complete COSHH assessments as part of an external H&S service; however for smaller workplaces HSE provide clear and simple guidance for managers. The benefit of third party H&S advisors is, of course, the depth of experience they can bring to an unfamiliar process – but bear in mind that they will need extensive input from knowledgeable people within the business.
Taking the Appropriate Steps
Let us assume for a moment that you have successfully carried out a COSHH risk assessment and the hazards have been identified. You will now need to determine what steps should be taken to eliminate such dangers. Here, we refer to the Hierarchy of Control to find the most effective method for minimising risk.
- Elimination – can you redesign the job or process so the hazard is removed?
- Substitution – can you find a lower risk alternative?
- Engineering controls – can you find an engineered solution to protect staff from the hazard?
- Administrative controls – can signage, education, training, or job rotation reduce risk?
- PPE – as a last resort, can you provide suitable protective equipment to stop the risk impacting the user?
It’s important to note that PPE is not the first solution to reduce risk – it is the option to turn to when other solutions are not practical.
As a supplier of dust and fume extraction equipment, AirBench provide engineering controls to reduce risk to operators. We recommend you fully assess risks before engaging a supplier for an engineered solution.
Contact us to organise a site visit and assessment.
HSE COSHH Minisite