COSHH Awareness

COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. Stated by HSE: This law requires that employers control substances that are hazardous to health.


Substances covered by COSHH include:

∙ Chemicals

∙ Products containing chemicals

∙ Fumes

∙ Dust

∙ Vapours

∙ Mists

∙ Nanotechnology

∙ Gases and asphyxiating gases and biological agents (germs)

∙ Germs that can cause diseases such as leptospirosis or legionnaires disease and germs used in laboratories

If the packaging is labelled with any of the hazard symbols shown on the image below, it is classified as a hazardous substance: An image displaying multiple warning signs.


Chemicals if not stored correctly, may pose a risk to employees if there were an accident. Hazardous substances should be always be stored in a COSHH cupboard for the safety of those in the workplace.A warning sign for a cupboard containing harmful chemicals.

Hazardous substances can enter the body by:

∙ Skin contact

∙ Inhalation

∙ Ingestion

∙ Exposure

Examples of health risks related to work:

∙ Irritant substances coming into contact with skin

∙ Inhalation of fumes or chemicals

∙ Ingestion of substances from poor personal hygiene (not washing your hands before eating)

∙ Exposure to radiation e.g, UV rays from the sun

Classification of substances:

Irritant, a substance that can skin or lung irritation

Corrosive, a substance that will strike, mostly by burning living tissue

Harmful, a substance that if swallowed, inhaled or exposed to the skin may cause a health risk

Toxic, a substance that will result in organ damage if ingested

Carcinogenic, a substance that causes cancer

COSHH Regulations – The Hierarchy of Control Measures:A triangular hierarchy of control measures.

∙ Elimination, preventing the risk by changing the process

∙ Substitute, substituting for a less hazardous substance

∙ Engineering controls, changing the method to minimise the hazard

∙ Administrative controls, e.g, reduced time of exposure to hazardous substances

∙ Personal protective equipment (PPE), only to be used as a last resort, does not eliminate the hazard

An image displaying several kinds of PPE.The Personal Protective Equipment At Work Regulations:

∙ PPE must suitable for the wearer and the task

∙ PPE should fit well, be comfortable to wear and not interfere with other equipment being worn or present the user with additional hazards

∙ PPE must be well maintained and safely stored when not in use

∙ The user must be trained in the safe and effective use of any PPE they need or use

∙ A suitable review process should be in place to ensure continued proper use and highlight any defects

PPE used when working with hazardous substances:

∙ Use of gloves, arm shields and barrier creams

∙ Safety aprons, chemical resistant boots, full body suits

∙ Goggles, safety glasses and visors

∙ Respirators (face mask) and breathing apparatus

Safety Checklist:

∙ Do any of the products you use have hazard labels on them?

∙ Does your current process of work include the production of gas, fume, dust, mist or vapour?

∙ Are there any substances being used that pose a risk if inhaled?

∙ Can any of the substances in use harm your skin?

∙ Is there a potential for harm to arise due to the way you use or produce it?

∙ What are you going to do about it?

  • Use something else?
  • Use it in an alternative, safer way?
  • Control it to prevent harm from being caused?

If you are interested in an online training course on COSHH, click the button below.