Looking after your team’s health and safety should be your main priority, especially if you’re running a manufacturing or construction business.
If your team are working with dangerous materials, you’ll need to make sure you’re abiding by the COSHH regulations.
Not doing so could see you face hefty fines if anyone from your workforce is injured.
- COSHH protects workers who might be working with these dangerous substances day-to-day and requires employers to think about how their team’s health might be affected by them.
- The COSHH regulations came into force in 2002, and state that employers must protect their employees from hazardous materials and take reasonable steps to ensure harmful materials are substituted, where possible.
- Not adhering to COSHH puts your team in danger and can lead to injuries, or even fatalities. It could also end up costing a business money.
What is COSHH?
COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. It outlines a company’s legal responsibilities when it comes to using hazardous materials at work.
Hazardous substances could be chemicals, vapours, dusts, mists, fumes, and nanomaterials.
COSHH protects workers who might be working with these dangerous substances day-to-day and requires employers to think about how their team’s health might be affected by them.
Each year, an estimated 13,000 deaths in the UK are linked to past exposure at work, primarily to chemicals or dust. Because of the dangers associated with certain materials, COSHH is something to be taken seriously.
What do the COSHH hazard signs mean?
There are a number of different signs to look out for when it comes to hazardous materials:
- Toxic – substances that can damage a person’s health at low levels
- Corrosive – substances that can damage living tissue if they come into contact
- Long-term health hazard – a substance that can cause long-lasting damage to someone’s health
- Explosive – substances can cause explosions if heated
- Flammable – substances can easily catch alight if it comes into contact with fire
- Oxidiser – substances that can cause a dangerous reaction while being prepared
- Danger to environment – substances that can damage wildlife, people, and weather systems immediately or in the future
- Warning – substances that pose a danger
- Compressed gas – substances that may explode when they’re heated
What are the COSHH regulations?
The COSHH regulations came into force in 2002. They state that employers must protect their employees from hazardous materials and take reasonable steps to ensure harmful materials are substituted, where possible.
If the materials can’t be substituted, employers are required to provide the necessary protective equipment to their team.
The regulations also apply to self-employed people who must take great care with hazardous materials and wear PPE, where necessary.
Why do companies need to adhere to COSHH?
Not adhering to COSHH puts your team in danger and can lead to injuries, or even fatalities. Every business has a duty of care to their employees and should make sure their team is protected as much as possible.
You must carry out a risk assessment before any of your team start working with hazardous materials to identify the dangers. Having this assessment in place will help you to analyse the potential outcomes and minimise the risks to your workforce.
Wherever possible, you should ensure that employees don’t come into contact with hazardous substances, and if they do, they should have the right protection, such as PPE.
Employees should also be given the relevant training so that they can understand the dangers of materials they’re working with and how to protect themselves where necessary.
Any safety processes should be assessed and updated regularly to ensure no new dangers have cropped up, and everything is still under control. Supervisors can oversee this, as well as making sure the rest of the team are able to perform their roles safely.
What could happen if companies didn’t adhere?
Legally, an employer must abide by COSHH. If they don’t, they could be putting their team in danger and losing money in the process as business-as-usual stalls due to staff absence.
In 2019/2020, there were an estimated 38.8 million working days missed due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries. If an employee isn’t able to work, the business will inevitably lose money.
But they could also find themselves having to pay out a hefty amount too. A business found to be breaking COSHH protocol can face an unlimited fine. In 2021, the Health and Safety Executive reported that companies were fined a collective £26.9 million for not enforcing health and safety regulations.
What are an employee’s responsibilities?
While an employer has an obligation to make sure their people are safe, employees also have a duty to protect themselves and those around them.
An employee’s responsibilities could include:
- Wearing PPE correctly, including eye protection and gloves
- Reporting all accidents to the Health & Safety manager onsite
- Following the processes that have been put in place to protect them
- Making sure they have the right training before handling any hazardous materials
Develop your team’s skills with COSHH training
Making sure your team are well equipped to deal with any hazardous substances is crucial.
Our COSHH training course will give them everything they need to work safely. It covers topics like:
- Understanding the COSHH regulations
- Safety data sheets
- Health surveillance
…and more to keep your team protected while they’re working with hazardous materials.
Speak to our friendly team about what we can offer your team, and how we can tailor it to your needs.