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COSHH! 8 Step plan

Brief description

Step 1:

Assess the risks to health arising from hazardous substances used in or created by your workplace activities

Step 2:

Decide what precautions are needed. You must not carry out work which could expose your employees to hazardous substances without first considering the risks and the necessary precautions, and what else you need to do to comply with COSHH

Step 3:

Prevent or adequately control exposure. You must prevent your employees being exposed to hazardous substances. Where preventing exposure is not reasonably practicable, then you must adequately control it

Step 4:

Ensure that control measures are used and maintained properly and that safety procedures are followed

Step 5:

Monitor the exposure of employees to hazardous substances, if necessary

Step 6:

Carry out appropriate health surveillance where your assessment has shown this is necessary or where COSHH sets specific requirements

Step 7:

Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving hazardous substances, where necessary

Step 8:

Ensure employees are properly informed, trained and supervised

Full details

Step 1

Assess the risks:you must:

  • Identify the hazardous substances present in your workplace;
  • Consider the risks these substances present to people’s health.

Step 2

Decide what precautions are needed to help you decide whether risks are significant, we suggest you compare any controls you already use.

Note: Remember to:

  • Check that your control systems work, and are effective;
  • Consider whether the substance could be absorbed through the skin.

What further action should be taken? If you decide that there are risks to health, you must take action to protect your employees’ (and others’) health.

Step 3

Prevent or adequately control exposure

The COSHH Regulations require you to prevent exposure to substances hazardous to health, if it is reasonably practicable to do so. You might:

  • Change the process or activity so that the hazardous substance is not needed or generated;
  • Replace it with a safer alternative;
  • Use it in a safer form, e.g., pellets instead of powder.
  • Control exposure at source, (e.g., local exhaust ventilation), and reduce to a minimum the number of employees exposed.
  • Provide personal protective equipment, (e.g., face masks, respirators, protective clothing) but only as a last resort.
  • Occupational exposure standards. An OES is set at a level that is not likely to damage the health of workers exposed to it, by inhalation, day after day (based on current scientific knowledge). For substances with an OES, you should reduce exposure to comply with that OES.
  • Maximum exposure limits. MELs are set for substances which may cause the most serious health effects such as cancer and occupational asthma, and for which it not possible to set an OES. For substances with MELs you are required to reduce exposure so far as is reasonably practicable and, in any case, below the MEL.
  • Skin absorption. Some substances can damage the skin itself while others can readily penetrate it, so you must consider the need to protect skin in deciding on control measures.
  • Similar waste stored together

Step 4

Ensure that control measures are used and maintained.

  • Using the controls. COSHH requires your employees to make proper use of control measures and to report defects.
  • Maintain controls. COSHH places specific duties on you to ensure that controls are kept in efficient working order and good repair.

Step 5

Monitor exposure

Under COSHH, you have to measure the concentration of hazardous substances in the air breathed in by workers where your assessment concludes that:

  • There could be serious risks to health if control measures failed or deteriorated;
  • Exposure limits might be exceeded;
  • Control measures might not be working properly.

Step 6

Carry out appropriate health surveillance

COSHH requires you to carry out health surveillance in the following circumstances:

  • Where an employee is exposed to one of the substances listed in Schedule 6 to COSHH.
  • Where employees are exposed to a substance linked to a particular disease or adverse health effect and there is a reasonable likelihood under the conditions of the work of that disease or effect occurring and it is possible to detect the disease or health effect.

Step 7

Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies

This will apply where the work activity gives rise to a risk of an accident, incident or emergency involving exposure to a hazardous substance. In such circumstances, you must plan your response to an emergency involving hazardous substances before it happens.

Step 8

Ensure that employees are properly informed, trained and supervised

COSHH requires you to provide your employees with suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training which should include:

  • The names of substances they work with or could be exposed to and the risks created by such exposure, and access to any safety data sheets that apply to those substances;
  • The main findings of your risk assessment;
  • The precautions they should take to protect themselves and other employees;
  • How to use personal protective equipment and clothing provided;
  • Results of any exposure monitoring and health surveillance (without giving individual employee’s names);
  • Emergency procedures which need to be followed.

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