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Is COSHH a legal requirement for early year settings?

A primary school teacher

Hazardous substances affect many workplaces, causing an estimated 650,000 deaths every year worldwide. However, hazardous substances in a school setting present a number of additional risks that must be taken into consideration. COSHH rules highlight how to manage these risks so that both staff and pupils are safe at all times.

Not only could these substances present risks to staff, but young children too. If these substances aren’t stored and handled properly, the risks can be far greater than in many other industries. Understanding and adhering to COSHH regulations in early years settings will minimise these risks, whilst protecting the health and safety of all staff and pupils in school.

COSHH regulations in early years settings

Common examples of hazardous substances that you might encounter in a school environment are things like cleaning products and solvents. Although these might seem harmless, they have the potential to cause a lot of damage, especially in a premises full of vulnerable individuals.

With that said, it is important that those operating in an early year setting have a strong understanding of the risks associated with storing hazardous substances.

What are the risks of incorrectly storing hazardous chemicals?

There are two main risks associated with storing hazardous chemicals in an early year setting.

Firstly, not securing the chemicals in a safe location. If they are simply kept in a cupboard and not locked somewhere safe, there will be a risk of a child getting hold of the chemicals. With many cleaning products being harmful and poisonous, these chemicals can be seriously dangerous to somebody who doesn’t understand how to handle them properly.

The second biggest risk associated with storing hazardous chemicals is storing them incorrectly. Some substances might be obvious hazards, others might be less so. Some substances can become harmful when they’re used in the wrong way, or when they’re mixed with other substances. For example, mixing some toilet cleaners and bleaches together can potentially create toxic fumes.

With that said, it is important that those working in an early year setting continuously keep an eye on potential risks involving hazardous substances. Making sure your staff have an in-depth understanding of COSHH safety rules and regulations will help you to do just that.

How long should COSHH records be retained?

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations require risk assessments to be made for all work with hazardous substances. Where the risk is significant, the risk assessment must be recorded and kept.

The COSHH regulations do not specify how long a COSHH risk assessment should be retained, but the general expectation is that the assessment is stored for 10 years after the work being assessed has finished.

What happens if you break COSHH regulations?

Breach of COSHH regulations by an employer or employee is a crime that is punishable by an unlimited fine.

With the average HSE fine costing around £145,000, it is essential that schools ensure they are compliant with legislation to avoid penalties.

You can find a number of case studies of HSE investigations surrounding COSHH here.

Online COSHH Training

Here at iHASCO, we provide an online COSHH Training course that helps organisations safely manage and control hazardous substances. This comprehensive course will give you all the tools needed to apply COSHH regulations in early years settings. 

Suitable for all levels of employees, this IOSH Approved course can be completed in just 25 minutes and provides a printable certificate upon completion of the end-of-training test.

You can claim a free, no-obligation trial of the course today! Alternatively, request a bespoke quote for your organisation and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your training requirements.

Online COSHH Training