Hazardous substances

Every year exposure to hazardous substances at work affects the health of thousands of people. Common examples include lung disease, skin irritation, dermatitis or skin cancer and occupational asthma. High costs arise from loss of earnings, loss of productivity, prosecution and civil action.

The COSHH Regulations 1999 provide a framework to help protect people in the workplace against health risks from hazardous substances. The substances may be used directly in the workplace (e.g. cleaning chemicals, chemical reagents) or may arise from the workplace (e.g. dust, fumes and waste products). 

COSHH lays down a step-by-step approach to the necessary precautions and is a useful tool of good management. The potential for identifiable cost benefits, improved morale and industrial relations have been widely realised. 

The regulations apply to virtually all substances hazardous to health. Exceptions include asbestos and lead (these have their own regulations) and substances hazardous only because they are radioactive.

Employers will need to make an assessment of the risks associated with your business. This is called a COSHH assessment. You will also need to look into necessary training for your employees.

Information and leaflets are available from the Health and Safety Executive or contact us for further details.