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What is COSHH?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002
If a business carries out processes involving substances which might cause harm to health, the law requires it to manage the risks to employees and to anyone who may be affected by its activities and environment.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) 2002 is the set of legal regulations put in place to protect people from exposure to hazardous substances and materials in the workplace.
The objective of COSHH is to prevent or control exposure to substances which are hazardous and which may cause ill health. The regulation sets out requirements for how employers should go about this.
The COSHH regulations do not provide guidelines of use for individual substances and products – these must be decided upon during risk assessment, and control and safety measures put in place accordingly.
How COSHH Protects People in the Workplace
- COSHH regulations protect employees and volunteers by ensuring that employers put in place measures to protect them from exposure to hazardous substances that they may come into contact with in the workplace.
- Employees and volunteers being aware of which substances may be hazardous, how to identify hazardous substances through packaging and labels, how substances can be exposed to the body, and how control and safety measures should be implemented, greatly reduce the risk of harm.
- Following COSHH regulations protects not only employees and volunteers, but anyone in the workplace – this includes patients, service users, contractors, visitors, and members of the public. This guidance uses the term ‘people in the workplace’ to refer to all the above groups
- If you are unsure of anything, you should always check about the correct handling and safe usage of a substance before you use it.
Employer and Employee/ Volunteer Responsibilities
- While many substances can cause harm to health, they rarely do as long as they are used properly. In order to keep the workplace safe, a risk assessment must be conducted before carrying out any work which may expose people to hazardous substances.
- The COSHH risk assessment can be found on SharePoint, in shops it can be found in the Health and safety folder.
Handling & using Chemicals
- Simple precautions and good housekeeping can reduce exposure to substances hazardous to health.
- Never store chemicals in open containers and make sure labels are not damaged, removed or covered up
- Avoid decanting substances from their original container into another container. If it is absolutely necessary to do so, decant the substance into a suitably labelled container
- Clean up spillages immediately and safely
- keep dangerous substances locked away
Safety Data Sheet
- By law all chemicals have a SDS sheet which is available for all chemicals as it provides:
- full details on how to handle, store and use the chemical
- details of chemicals that make up the product
- The SDS’s can be found where chemicals are stored in the hospice, in shops these can be found in the Health and Safety folder.
In case of emergency you should all be aware and have easy access to where these sheets are kept.
Example of a Safety Data Sheet
Accidents / Emergency
In case of an accident/emergency refer to the:
- SDS Sheet
- label on the bottle (this provides only basic information)
- CONTACT WITH SKIN – Wash the skin with clean, cool water for a minimum of 15 mins
- CONTACT WITH EYES – Irrigate the eye with clean, cold water. Use an eye bath or eye bottle for best effect
- INGESTION – Rinse the mouth, avoiding swallowing more and seek medical attention
- INHALATION – Remove to fresh air NOW!
(Personal Protection Equipment)
- Suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) must also be provided to workers. PPE is designed to protect the wearer from hazardous substances and infectious agents.
- PPE may include protective gloves, gowns, coveralls, eye protection, and respirators
- PPE should fit the wearer and be comfortable
- PPE should be properly cleaned and maintained
- Employees and volunteers must wear PPE provided by St Elizabeth Hospice to protect their health and to ensure they are compliant with COSHH regulations.
Things to remember
- Ensure you understand the instructions before using any chemical
- Know where to find the Safety Data sheets in the location you are working
- Do not use chemicals if they are not labelled clearly
- Never decant chemicals
- Pay particular attention to Contact time
- Wear the appropriate PPE
- Store chemicals safely after use