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Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations

Posted on: 09 January 2019
Refer to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and subsequent 2004 amendment regulations on legislation.gov.uk

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations have been in existence since 1988, though there have been a number of re-enactments and amendment regulations since then to reflect developments in hazardous substance risks and controls and to incorporate European Directives into UK domestic law.

The main aims of the COSHH Regulations is to protect people from the hazards of substances used or likely to be present in the workplace and to impose specific duties regarding the import and use of certain specified substances within the EU.

The Regulations apply to a wide range of substances and preparations (mixtures of two or more substances) which have the potential to cause harm to health if they are ingested, inhaled, absorbed by, or come into contact with, the skin, or other body membranes. Hazardous substances can occur in many forms, including solids, liquids, vapours, gases and fumes.

For clarity, the term “substances” may relate to products that are bought in or used as part of a process, in addition to any substances generated during a process (by-products) that may be hazardous to health. Hazardous substances include:

  • chemicals;
  • products containing chemicals;
  • fumes;
  • dusts;
  • vapours;
  • mists;
  • nanotechnology;
  • gases and asphyxiating gases;
  • biological agents; and
  • pathogenic germs.
The COSHH Regulations do not cover asbestos, lead or radioactive substances, all of which are the subject of specific legislative articles.

The COSHH Regulations impose duties on employers to safeguard the health and safety of employees and others (such as contractors and visitors) that may be affected by hazardous substances within the workplace through a combination of risk assessment, exposure control, monitoring, health surveillance and incident planning.

It must also be recognised that the employee also has a responsibility to co-operate with their employer and take steps to protect themselves from the health hazards presented by substances they work with or around. For the purpose of these Regulations, a self-employed person carries the responsibility of both the employer and employee.

While the duties of the employer extend to persons not in his employment, the requirements for provision of health surveillance, monitoring, instruction and accident response training (Regulations 10, 11, 12 and 13) don’t normally extend to non-employees. It’s also important to note that Regulations 6 to 13 don’t apply where the risk is to the health of a person who is being administered with a hazardous substance in the course of medical treatment (e.g. chemotherapy).

Refer to the various Schedules within the COSHH Regulations for detailed requirements and application.
When considering issues relating to COSHH, you may also need to consider the following legislation:

The implementation of the CLP Regulations harmonised standards throughout the EU for chemical classification, containment requirements for storage and transportation and common identification/warning labels.

Effective from 1 June 2015, these Regulations repealed and replaced the Chemical Hazard Information and Packaging (CHIP) Regulations.