When chemicals or other hazardous substances are used at work it can put people’s health at risk, thetrefore employers are required to control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. COSHH is a useful tool of good practise which sets eight basic measures that employers, and sometimes employees, must take.
Hazardous substances are found in nearly all work environments and include:
- Substances used directly in work activities (e.g. adhesives, paints, cleaning agents)
- Substances generated during work activities (e.g. fumes from soldering and welding)
- Naturally occurring substances (e.g. grain dust)
- Biological agents such as bacteria and other micro-organisms
Employers must ensure employees are properly informed, trained and supervised when it comes to COSHH, which is the final step in the eight basic measures that should be taken to comply with COSHH. Ensuring employees understand the risks from hazardous substances they could be exposed to are vital.
If employees don’t know what substances are hazardous, or how to use them properly, then control measures put in place during COSHH management will not be effective. Therefore, providing essential training for employees to raise COSHH awareness will ensure workers remain safe and healthy.
What do employees need to be trained on?
COSSH requires you to ensure that employees are properly informed, trained and supervised. People need to know why it’s important; they must work in a certain way and be motivated to do so. This motivation can be achieved through understanding what the health risks are and also having the confidence that the control measures in place will protect them.
Information should be provided on the following topics:
- The names of the substances they work with or could be exposed to;
- The risks these substances pose;
- The precautions they should take to protect themselves and other employees;
- How to use personal protective equipment and clothing provided;
- If there are any workplace exposure limits;
- Results of any exposure monitoring and health surveillance; and
- Emergency procedures which need to be followed.
When it comes to providing this information, explain to your employees, and anyone else who needs to know, exactly what the dangers of the hazardous substances they’re working with are. It’s poor practice just to hand them a page of written information.
Within training, make sure everyone is aware that they have access to any relevant safety data sheets. It will also be useful for staff to know the main findings of your COSHH risk assessment and what this means for them.
If any significant changes are made to the type of work or work methods being carried out by employees then new training should be given. In addition, you should ensure that the level of information being given to employees is relevant and is understood.
Basic training records can be kept to demonstrate what information, instruction and training has been given to staff.
If this blog has given you food for thought, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide further advice and guidance on COSHH on their website. Here you can find out more about the legal requirements around COSHH, including information on the other seven basic measures that should be taken to comply.
Any health and safety training will ensure that people who work for you know how to work safely and without risks to health. This is particularly evident around COSHH and will help you meet your legal duty to protect the health and safety of your employees.