COSHH assessments play a pivotal role in protecting workers from the harmful effects of exposure to hazardous substances, reducing the risks of illnesses and accidents, and ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations. The employer’s legal and ethical responsibility is to provide a safe work environment. Using a mobile auditing app for regular inspections, businesses can streamline regulatory compliance and improve safety by identifying hazards and dangers on-site.
COSHH regulations in the workplace: what are they and why do they matter?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) “is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health and includes nanomaterials.” While assessing general health and safety risks, COSHH regulations focus specifically on the hazards that substances may pose in the workplace in various industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, construction, and any other industry that uses hazardous substances.
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The COSHH risk assessment will provide you with information about the control measures to implement in order to prevent or limit the exposure of employees to health-hazardous substances. That’s why a COSHH risk assessment document should include:
- The hazardous properties of the substance
- The potential health effects of the substances
- Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs)
- Details of the work and amount of substances involved
- The level, type and duration of exposure in front of the substances
- Prevention and control measures for exposure to substances
- Results of monitoring and health surveillance
With the help of an auditing app, employers can designate a person who will be responsible for conducting COSHH assessments internally. However, if your company uses extremely hazardous substances, the inspections should be conducted by qualified inspectors with the knowledge and expertise to identify potential health hazards and create controls to reduce the risks.
Types of COSHH Assessments & main substances
There are two main types of COSHH assessments: generic and specific. Generic assessments are carried out for substances that are commonly used in the workplace and have well-known hazards. Specific assessments, on the other hand, are carried out for substances that are not well-known or are only used in specific situations. Specific assessments are often more detailed than generic assessments and as we mentioned, these require the input of a specialist.
Some examples of COSHH assessments and their importance:
1. Cleaning products: Many cleaning products contain hazardous chemicals that can cause health problems if they are not handled properly. COSHH assessments of cleaning products can help identify the hazards associated with the chemicals and the appropriate precautions that should be taken when handling them. It’s also important to monitor and improve health & safety standards while implementing the COSHH assessments.
2. Paints and solvents: By conducting a workplace inspection, you can determine if a COSHH assessment is necessary, and if it is, it will help you identify the risks associated with exposure to VOCs (volatile organic compounds) as well as measures that need to be taken to reduce or eliminate those risks.
3. Pesticides: Pesticides are used in a variety of industries, including agriculture and horticulture. Among other safety and general inspections for agriculture, COSHH assessments of pesticides can help identify the risks associated with exposure to these substances, as well as the protective measures to be taken when handling and applying them.
4. Chemicals used in manufacturing: Many industries use chemicals in their manufacturing processes. COSHH assessments of these substances can help identify the risks associated with exposure to the chemicals and the appropriate measures that should be taken to protect workers from harm. Here’s a comprehensive list of checklists you can use to identify the risk, comply with the health standards and to streamline inspections across your production facilities and operations.
COSHH symbols (hazard pictograms) and their meaning
In an effort to improve worker safety through better communications, the GB Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemicals Regulation (GB CLP) offers a series of COSHH symbols. Knowing the differences between the relevant COSHH symbols will help you to reduce the likelihood of workplace injuries and illnesses. Main hazard pictograms include: Explosive, Flammable, Oxidizing, Gases under pressure, Corrosive, Toxic, Health Hazard and Dangerous for the Environment.
On the HSE network website, you can learn about COSHH symbols and their meanings.
Digital COSHH Assessments with the GoAudits inspections app
In recent years, the process of completing these assessments has become increasingly digitized. Digital COSHH assessments with GoAudits provide significant benefits. The use of an auditing app streamlines data entry, enables to easily attach evidence and photos, , reducing the possibility of human error and saving a lot of time during assessments. Additionally, mobile audits eliminate the need for paper copies and storage, which makes them an environmentally friendly option and frees up office space.
Digital COSHH assessments facilitate the tracking and management of hazardous materials. With the help of GoAudits’ action plans and smart dashboards, you can monitor the use and handling of dangerous substances in real-time, as well as identify potential hazards or areas of improvement more quickly. As a result, all staff members will be safer at work, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.
In addition to storing all the required data in one place, digital audits make it easy for employees to access and update information at any time. By having access to the latest information and procedures, employees will be able to work safely and transparently. Read more about the advantages of using a mobile inspection app and how to choose the right mobile app for your workplace inspections here.
Download free COSHH assessment templates
With GoAudits you can complete health & safety assessments from anywhere, at any time. Here are a few free COSHH assessment templates to get you started:
Additional Risk assessment templates
As mentioned, COSHH assessments are a type of risk assessment whose objective is to identify and evaluate hazards associated with handling hazardous materials. Risk assessment, however, is meant to identify, evaluate, and prioritise potential hazards. In addition to the COSHH assessment templates, these risk checklists will help you develop complete control measures to minimize risks and ensure workplace safety for your employees and customers.
To summarize, conducting COSHH assessments and other health & safety audits digitally can provide companies with several benefits, including saving time and money, improving information access, and managing workplace hazards more effectively. Your legal obligations can be fulfilled while also ensuring that your work environment is safer and more efficient by switching to a digital system.