What Is COSHH? Everything You Need To Know


COSHH is an acronym which means – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. It is covered under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulation of 2002.

COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health and includes nanomaterials.

COSHH Essentials sets out basic advice on what to do to control exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace.


What are hazardous substances

Hazardous substances are those substances which could adversely affect the health of workers who may come in contact with them. Considering the negative health effect which accompanies exposure to these hazardous substances, COSHH was initiated to protect employees working with or who may get exposed to these hazardous substances.


What does COSHH do?

It provides a framework to help protect people in the workplace against health risks from hazardous substances, these substances may be used directly in the workplace or may arise as a by-product of work, e.g. dusts, fumes and waste products.

These hazardous substances could be: Chemicals, Fumes, Dusts, Vapour, Mist, Nanotechnology, Gases, Biological agents, etc.

COSHH Risk Assessment

This risk assessment identifies substances or activities which may favour the release of hazardous substances, which could damage the health of employees exposed to it.

This risk assessment can be done in six (6) steps:

  1. Identify the risk
  2. Decide who might get harm and how
  3. Assess the risk
  4. Determine the workplace exposure limit for the hazardous substance.
  5. Monitor the implementation of the risk assessment
  6. Review where necessary.


COSHH Employer Responsibilities

Employers have a number of key responsibilities regarding COSHH laws. These include:

  1. Exposure – Employers must prevent or control exposure to hazardous substances. This can include the provision of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary
  2. Control measures – Implement control measures around hazardous substances and ensure these are maintained and kept up to date, in full working order and clean where appropriate
  3. Instruction – Provide employees with information, instruction and training around working with hazardous substances
  4. Procedures – Having procedures in place to deal with accidents and emergencies relating to hazardous substances
  5. Surveillance – Ensure employees exposed to hazardous substances are under adequate surveillance
  6. Risk assessments – Carry out COSHH risk assessments.
  7. Limits – Ensure the use of hazardous substances doesn’t exceed the Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL).
  8. Supervision – Check employees are carrying out tasks as they are supposed to.

COSHH Employee Responsibilities

Employees have the responsibility to ensure that tasks are carried out safely to ensure no harm comes to themselves or others. These include:

  1. Safety – Assist their fellow employees in creating a safe working environment. This can include supporting colleagues to abide by the regulations specific to their workplace
  2. Procedures – Follow the procedures put in place to stop accidents and overexposure
  3. PPE (personal protective equipment) – Wear the correct PPE including eye and noise protection. This includes ensuring all PPE is stored correctly in the appropriate place
  4. Reporting – Report and record all accident, spillages and breakages
  5. Check-ups – Attend medical check-ups when required to
  6. Cleaning – Use cleaning and showering facilities provided by employers in line with official procedures
  7. Training – Keep up to date with training provided by employers.


COSHH Training

Training is required for workers working with hazardous substances who may get exposed to it. There should be educated on the following areas:

  • What the hazards and risks are
  • The Workplace exposure limit of the hazardous substance
  • The results of any monitoring of exposure
  • Health surveillance result
  • What to do in cases of accidental discharge and exposure.



May also be interested in:

RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995)

Fire protection and components of fire protection

Permissible exposure limit of chemicals and physical agents

Material safety data sheet (MSDS)