Hazardous Substances

Last reviewed on 05/11/2012 14:43

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Using hazardous substances in the workplace

Hazardous substances can cause short- and long-term health problems including dermatitis, cancer and asthma.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) classifies hazardous substances as:

Hazards Classifications

Biological agents and dusts in substantial concentrations are also classified as hazardous substances.

As an employer, you have a duty to control your employees' exposure to hazardous substances and to provide the proper equipment (including clothing), training and supervision where the use of such substances is essential.

Living with hazardous substances

The hierarchy of control measures for hazardous substances can be summarised as:

Eliminate: Don't use the hazardous substance or avoid the procedure which causes exposure.

Substitute: Change the material or working practice to one less hazardous.

Enclose: Enclose the hazardous substance or process in a closed system.

Control: By using one of the following methods:

  • Engineering controls: Control the exposure at source with local exhaust ventilation or increased dilution ventilation to lower concentrations in the atmosphere.
  • Procedural controls: Reduce the numbers exposed or the time spent on the procedure, carry it out in specified areas, carry out routine monitoring and health and medical surveillance if needed.
  • Personal protective equipment: Provide gloves, impervious aprons or overalls, and respiratory protection to minimise the effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

Information, instruction, and training: Provide everyone who is involved or could be affected with the degree of training required to ensure their safety.

It is also important to put in place procedures to cope with accidents and emergencies. The controls you have in place may be adequate for normal activities, but what would you do if there were an emergency, like a major spillage or release of a substance? It is vital that there are contingencies to deal with these circumstances.


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→ Download our Risk Assessment Form

→ Download our Risk Assessment Form - Worked Example

→ Visit our page on Hazardous Substances

→ Read COSHH: A Brief Guide to the Regulations (external site)