Every year exposure to hazardous substances at work affects the health of many thousands of people. Common examples include lung disease (e.g. dusty conditions), skin irritation, dermatitis or skin cancer (e.g. frequent contact with oils, contact with corrosive liquids), occupational asthma (e.g. sensitisation to isocyanates in paints or adhesives), toxic fumes, occupational cancer etc. The high costs of ill health arise from loss of earnings, loss of productivity, prosecution and civil action amongst others.
THE COSHH REGULATIONS 2002
These provide a framework to help protect people in the workplace against health risks from hazardous substances. The substances may be used directly in the work (e.g. cleaning chemicals, chemical reagents) or may arise from the work (e.g. dusts, fumes and waste products).
COSHH lays down a sensible step-by-step approach to the necessary precautions and is therefore a useful tool of good management. The potential for identifiable cost benefits (e.g. tighter control over the use and storage of materials), improved morale and industrial relations have been widely realised.
COSHH applies to virtually all substances hazardous to health. Exceptions include asbestos and lead (which have their own regulations) and substances that are hazardous only because they are radioactive, asphyxiants, at high pressure/temperature or have explosive/flammable properties.
- Hazard - is the potential to cause harm
- Risk - is the likelihood that it will harm you in the actual circumstances of use
The risk will depend on a number of factors, such as the hazard presented by the substance, how it is used, how exposure is controlled, the degree and extent of exposure etc.
On line help to carry out COSHH assessments can be accessed at the following link COSHH EssentialsThis site provides advice on controlling the use of chemicals for a range of common tasks, eg mixing, or drying.
For most tasks this website will take you through a number of steps and ask for information about your tasks and chemicals.
Further information can be obtained at the links shown below