What is COSHH?

Jessica Clifton

by Jessica Clifton

21st August 2019

COSHH is a very important part of the chemical industry in the U.K. The term COSHH stands for ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’, and is the law that requires employers to ensure they maintain health and safety in the workplace related to these types of substances. Under the COSHH Regulations (2002) employers must either prevent, reduce or control their employees’ exposure to hazardous substances. In this article, we look in more detail at what COSHH is and why it’s so important.

How Do Employers Adhere to COSHH Regulations? 

This law doesn’t just apply to the chemical industry, although it is clearly of great importance to all chemical suppliers and manufacturers. Most companies use substances or products that contain substances which are hazardous. In the chemical industry these substances are often very recognisable – many acids and solvents are hazardous, for example. But there are also many ‘everyday’ products, such as paint, bleach, fumes, ink, and even fibres from natural materials that can be hazardous to health.

COSHH regulations can prevent and reduce health hazards

COSHH regulations can prevent and reduce health hazards in the workplace

Employers can prevent or reduce their employees’ exposure to hazardous substances in several ways:

  • Find out exactly what the health hazards are for a potentially hazardous substance
  • Conduct a risk assessment so you know how to prevent harm to health
  • Introduce control measures to reduce harm to health

Once these measures are in place, an employer should ensure they are used. This includes keeping all controls in working order; providing information and training; monitoring health surveillance where necessary, and planning for emergencies.

Why is COSHH Important?

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), thousands of workers become ill due to hazardous substances each year. These illnesses include lung disease, cancer, asthma, and skin diseases. Adhering to COSHH can help prevent and reduce this.

These diseases also cost millions of pounds each year: to the employer, who needs to train new staff; to society, in healthcare; and to the person affected, who could potentially lose their job.

As well as helping to prevent these illnesses and their related costs, following COSHH regulations can also make production more efficient and reduce waste. In fact, a healthier workforce leads to healthier profits.

How to Comply with COSHH Regulations

There are eight steps to take in order to comply with COSHH regulations. We’ll look at them in more depth in a future blog post, but put simply they are:

  1. Risk assessment
  2. Decide on the necessary precautions to take
  3. Prevent or control exposure
  4. Ensure the controls you put in place are used
  5. Monitor exposure
  6. Undertake health surveillance where necessary
  7. Put together a plan in case of accidents or emergencies
  8. Inform, train, and supervise employees


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All content published on the ReAgent.ie blog is for information only. The blog, its authors, and affiliates cannot be held responsible for any accident, injury or damage caused in part or directly from using the information provided. Additionally, we do not recommend using any chemical without reading the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which can be obtained from the manufacturer. You should also follow any safety advice and precautions listed on the product label. If you have health and safety related questions, visit HSE.gov.uk.