Why COSHH Matters

Using chemicals or other hazardous substances at work can put people’s health at risk. Each year, many thousands of workers become ill as a result of hazardous substances contracting asthma and other lung diseases as well as skin conditions such as dermatitis. These diseases cost millions of pounds each year to businesses, to society and to the individuals who are affected by them.

As a result, the law requires employers to control exposure to hazardous substances in order to prevent ill health of their employees. This regulation set by law is known as ‘COSHH’ and stands for the ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’.

COSHH was developed as part of the Government’s push to ensure safe working conditions are provided for every worker in the UK. It plays a vital role in many industries as its regulations are applicable to most companies throughout the UK, from small offices to large factories.

Which Substances Are Deemed Hazardous?

Products you use within your workplace may be ‘dangerous for supply’. If so, they will have a label that has one or more hazard symbols upon it. These products include common substances in everyday use such as paint, bleach, solvent or fillers. When a product is ‘dangerous for supply’, by law, the supplier must provide you with a safety data sheet.

Under the COSHH regulations, the following substances are deemed hazardous:

  • Chemicals
  • Products containing chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dusts
  • Vapours
  • Mists
  • Nanotechnology
  • Gas and Asphyxiating gases
  • Biological Agents
  • Germs that cause diseases (including leptospirosis and legionnaires disease)

What Do I Need to Know about COSHH?

COSHH exists to ensure that both employers and employees do all they can in a workplace to minimise exposure to hazardous substances and work in ways that are safe. This means that all hazardous substances need to be identified and precautions need to be taken to ensure they know how to use and handle them safely.

For example, cleaners that handle cleaning products frequently may come across problems such as having wet hands for a long time, leading to irritated skin and resulting in dermatitis. A precaution to this would be to ensure use of gloves to help keep hands dry. Whilst ingredients in cleaning products can cause allergies and asthma, and other ingredients may be corrosive and cause skin burns or eye damage, in which case protective eyewear or other PPE would be required.

In order to acknowledge such health hazards, and then put the right control measures in place, a COSHH risk assessment is required.

A Step in the Right Direction…

To comply with COSHH regulations you need to follow these eight steps:

Step 1: Find out what the health hazards are

Step 2: Decide how to prevent harm to health (carrying out a COSHH risk assessment)

Step 3: Provide control measures to reduce harm to health

Step 4: Make sure the control measures are used

Step 5: Keep all control measures in good working order

Step 6: Provide information, instruction and training for employees and others

Step 7: Provide monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases

Step 8: Plan for emergencies

Training and Monitoring Your Staff

It’s essential to provide information, training and instruction for employees, including cleaning and maintenance staff, who work with substances hazardous to health. It’s also important to present to staff the potential personal results of not following training and safety procedures. This is because employees need to understand the outcome of your workplace risk assessment and what this means for them.

Additionally, when a contractor comes on site, they also need to be informed of what the risks are within your workplace and how you are controlling them. On the other hand, they will need to inform you if they are bringing hazardous substances onto your premises, and how they will prevent harm in doing so.

Conclusion

At Cannon Cleaning, we understand that there’s a number of health and safety regulations to consider, as cleaning often involves working with potentially harmful chemicals. We appreciate the importance of keeping employees safe, which is why we are an approved member of the British Institute of Cleaning Service (BICSc), proving our skills, education and industry experience.