The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) set out the legal requirement for employers to control the exposure of their employees to hazardous substances such as chemicals, fumes, dust and vapour.

COSHH training plays a crucial role in helping employers meet these requirements and in protecting employees from the harmful effects of these substances.

What is COSHH training

For employers, there is a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their employees and this includes training and instruction on any workplace hazard including hazardous substances. Failure to comply with health and safety regulations including COSHH can result in legal consequences such as unlimited fines, litigation and even imprisonment.

For employees, COSHH training is crucial for their own safety and well-being. It equips them with the knowledge they need to protect themselves from the hazards associated with dangerous substances.

It should for instance, cover the following:

  • Understanding what hazardous substances are
  • Recognition of warning symbols and labels
  • What to do if you come in contact with a hazardous substance

On completion, employees should be able to identify potential risks, take appropriate precautions, and respond effectively in case of an emergency.

COSHH training should also raises awareness about the long-term health effects of exposure to hazardous substances, encouraging employees to prioritize their future health and wellbeing.

Understanding hazardous substances

Hazardous substances are any substances that have the potential to cause harm to health. They are hazardous because of the serious effects of exposure which includes skin irritation, damage to lungs and other internal organs, respiratory problems and even an increased risk of developing cancer. In some cases, exposure can cause fatal damage such as in the case of asbestosis.

Because of these potential effects, it is critical that employees can easily identify these substances and understand their potential hazards.

Recognition of warning symbols and labels

Hazard symbols are pictograms and are used to convey specific information about the hazards posed by a substance. These symbols are standardized and you will probably recognise some of them such as:

  • Flammable: This symbol indicates that the substance is highly flammable and can easily catch fire.
  • Toxic: This symbol warns that the substance is toxic and can cause serious health problems if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.
  • Corrosive: This symbol signifies that the substance is corrosive and can cause severe burns or damage to the skin, eyes, or respiratory system.
  • Explosive: This symbol indicates that the substance is explosive and can cause a violent reaction if exposed to heat, shock, or friction.

On completion of COSHH training, employees should know where to find these symbols and be able to recognise what they mean.

What to do if you come in contact with a hazardous substance

If you ever come in contact with a hazardous material, it is crucial to take immediate action to protect yourself and others. COSHH training should outline the steps you need to take:

  • Assess the situation: Determine the nature of the hazardous material and the level of danger it poses. This will help you understand the appropriate response and necessary precautions.
  • Protect yourself and others: Put on personal protective equipment like gloves, goggles, and a mask to shield yourself from direct contact with the hazardous substance. This will minimize your risk of exposure.
  • Clear up spillage if you are trained to do so and if you have the correct equipment.
  • Or remove yourself from the area: If the hazardous material is in a confined space, quickly go to a safe location. The priority is to move away from the source of danger to reduce the chances of inhalation or skin contact.
  • Notify relevant people i.e.  Your line manager/manager, emergency services, to report the incident. If you call emergency services, make sure you can provide them with detailed information about the hazardous material and its location.
  • Follow decontamination procedures: If there is a possibility of contamination, follow decontamination procedures. This typically involves removing contaminated clothing, rinsing affected areas with water and seeking medical attention if necessary.
  • Seek medical assistance: Even if you do not immediately experience symptoms, you should seek medical advice. A medical professional can evaluate your condition and recommend any necessary treatment or monitoring.

Example: Let’s say you accidentally spill a chemical substance on your skin while working in a laboratory. In this case, you would immediately wash the affected area with water and remove any contaminated clothing. You would then inform your line manager about the incident, who would follow the necessary protocols for reporting and decontamination.

To summarise

COSHH training plays a vital role in ensuring workplace safety and protecting employees from the hazards associated with hazardous substances. It equips employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to work safely and confidently with these substances.

By understanding the legal requirements, implementing practical solutions, employers can provide effective COSHH training that enhances workplace safety, improves productivity, and ensures compliance with regulations.

If you would like to ensure the safety of your employees and comply with COSHH regulations, get in touch with us today. We have an accredited COSHH Training Course which can be tailored to your needs.

Published On: January 5th, 2024