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Common COSHH risk assessment mistakes and how to avoid them

Employers conducting risk assessments

With an estimated 650,000 deaths worldwide occurring as a result of hazardous substances, it is essential that these substances are treated with caution.

When it comes to using these substances in the workplace, The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations sets the requirements for both employers and employees when it comes to the usage and storage of hazardous substances.

Who is legally responsible for following COSHH in the workplace?

Ultimately, everybody in the workplace will have some responsibility under the regulations.

Employers arguably have the greatest amount of responsibility as they must educate and inform staff on how to safely use and store hazardous substances, as well as providing staff with the correct PPE, training, and other information.

On the other hand, employees are responsible for ensuring that their daily tasks are conducted safely and causes no harm to others.

For more information about responsibilities under COSHH regulations, see our guide.

What is the main safety issue regarding COSHH?

The COSHH Regulations cover a wide range of substances, including chemicals, fumes, vapours, germs, and dust.

It’s hard to narrow down the safety issues covered by COSHH to a single area, which is why it is crucial that an organisation’s COSHH risk assessment is carried out thoroughly by a competent person who knows what to look out for.

What is a COSHH risk assessment?

Adhering to COSHH Regulations is a legal requirement in the UK. The regulations require employers to protect employees and other people through the use of effective risk assessments, as well as a number of other measures.

Here are some of the key areas to consider when conducting a COSHH risk assessment…

Identify hazards

The person conducting the risk assessment should first identify any COSHH hazards in the workplace. Whether this be the improper storage of cleaning products or the use of a particular substance as part of a work process, these risks must be recorded.

Identify who might be affected

Once the hazards have been identified, it is important to note who might be affected by the hazard. This will help further down the lines when deciding on preventative measures.

Evaluate risks

Once you have identified the hazards and who might be affected by them, you should evaluate the severity of each risk. This will give you an idea of what actions must be taken to ensure minimal risks.

Decide on/implement preventative measures

Finally, once you are confident that the previous areas have been identified and evaluated, you must decide on whether your existing preventative measures will suffice, or whether more action needs to be taken.

COSHH risk assessment mistakes and how to avoid them

There are a number of common mistakes made by organisations when it comes to COSHH risk assessments including…

Allowing incompetent staff to conduct the assessment - The regulations specifically require the assessment to be conducted by a competent person. Organisations should consider both the qualifications and experience of the person they are looking to conduct the assessment before handing over this responsibility.

Not cross-referencing with older COSHH risk assessments - It is unlikely that a risk would have been completely removed from the workplace, therefore it should continue to be monitored in each assessment. Without cross-referencing with older assessments, some risks could go unnoticed.

Failing to engage employees with the COSHH risk assessment - The employees are likely to be the people most exposed and affected by COSHH risks. Therefore, they are more than likely the most important people to receive feedback from. They can help the competent person conduct a thorough assessment that covers all bases.

Online COSHH Training

Here at iHASCO, we offer an online COSHH Training course that covers all the information necessary to keep your staff safe from substances that could be potentially harmful to their health.

The IOSH Approved course, which can be completed in just 25 minutes, provides a printable certificate upon completion of the end-of-training test and is broken down into three easily-digestible sections:

  1. Hazardous substances: coming into contact with them and the effects of exposure
  2. Hazard symbols
  3. Six simple steps to control risks

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

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