Strict laws in the UK require employers to control exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 are vital to protect the health of staff working around any dangerous materials.
CoSHH regulations are aimed at minimising the number of people who become unwell. They govern multiple industries, such as the health and social care sector, where it’s vital that the various substances are stored, used and disposed of responsibly.
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What are CoSHH risk assessments?
Risk assessments for the CoSHH regulations are a key part of workplace safety procedures. With the modern focus increasingly on looking after workers’ health, businesses can’t afford to make any mistakes when it comes to taking the necessary precautions.
The regulations cover many different substances including fumes, chemicals, vapours, dust and germs. A risk assessment is carried out because employers have the great responsibility of educating and informing staff regarding their safe use and storage.
This means the employer must understand the risks involved by assessing every aspect of keeping the workplace safe. A comprehensive assessment needs to pinpoint exactly where the dangers lie and how serious they are. Once the potential hazards are identified, the employer must take action to mitigate all risks. This includes providing the employees with the correct PPE and training.
Despite the management of hazardous substances being crucial, sadly, many organisations still fall foul of some basic mistakes when carrying out the risk assessment. Read on to find out more about the more common CoSHH risk assessment errors and why it’s important to rectify them.
Failure to react to hazards
The first issue is a failure to react to the identified hazards: the risk assessment means not only recognising them, but also acting to limit the risks. There’s no point compiling a collection of data sheets about the risks from each substance if you don’t put an action plan in place to manage the dangers.
Assess the potential dangers of every substance used in your workplace and then put the appropriate measures in place to control the risks. Once you have introduced safety measures, verify that they work. You can’t simply say, “These are the risks,” and then do nothing, as this is an incomplete risk assessment.
Referencing previous assessments
Not cross-referencing with previous assessments is another common error. It’s highly unlikely that any risk will have been removed completely from the workplace since the previous assessment. By cross-referencing, you can continue to monitor the known issues.
If you fail to cross-reference, there’s a chance you may not be getting the complete picture, and something could go unnoticed. Risk assessment is meant to be a management tool to identify what measures are needed for identified problems. This means it’s sensible to study earlier reports and determine what has been done in the past.
Make sure the assessment is never carried out by an inexperienced member of staff. Not only is this dangerous, but it’s also breaking the law. The CoSHH regulations specifically require a competent person to conduct the assessment.
Every organisation carrying out a risk assessment should consider both the experience and qualifications of the person they are trusting with the important task. Don’t hand over such an important responsibility to someone who simply isn’t up to it.
Lack of feedback
Failing to engage with employees when carrying out the CoSHH assessment means you’re likely to get an incomplete picture. Employees are usually the people most exposed to and affected by CoSHH risks. Not asking for their feedback can leave you with an incomplete set of data.
Everyone can help to conduct a thorough risk assessment that covers every potential hazard. Then, when the assessment is complete, you can get employee feedback on what remedial measures will be taken. These are the people who work closely with the substances, and they will be speaking from personal experience, so is very valuable.
How can an AirBench help with CoSHH compliance?
When it comes to working with potentially hazardous fumes and dust, an AirBench can help a business to be CoSHH compliant. As a market-leading range of downdraught benches, they are designed to capture fumes and dust, contain them using internal filters and then return clean air into the room.
Trusted by businesses in many different sectors, AirBenches are used in almost every industry including aerospace, composites, machining, fabrication and more. All dust and fume extraction systems are built to order and can solve specific problems to help improve safety in the workplace, while ensuring CoSHH compliance.