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What is CoSHH? - The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations

What is CoSHH?

CoSHH is an acronym for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health.

The aim of CoSHH is to prevent or drastically reduce workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations

First commenced on the 21st November 2002 and is a UK Statutory Instrument that states general requirements on employers to protect employees and other persons from the hazards of substances through effective risk assessment, control of exposure, health surveillance, incident planning and training.

CoSHH covers an enormous range of substances including chemicals, products containing:

  • Chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dust
  • Vapours
  • and biological agents, such as germs.

However, CoSHH regulations do not cover lead, asbestos or radioactive substances as these have their own specific regulations.

Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)

The GHS is a system developed by the United Nations for the classification and labelling of chemicals.

The Health and Safety Executive state that the “GHS aims to ensure that information on the hazardous properties of chemicals is available throughout the world in order to enhance the protection of human health and the environment during the handling, transport and use of chemicals”.

However, the UN GHS is a non-legally binding international agreement. Therefore countries must have legislation in place to implement the GHS - for the United Kingdom, that is CoSHH and for the European Union it’s the CLP Regulation (see below).

Check out our video on the CoSHH symbols:

The CoSHH symbols and their meanings

Regulations in conjunction with CoSHH

CoSHH works in conjunction with a handful of other UK regulations. Here are a few examples:

CLP Regulation

The Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (2009) is an EU Regulation that works in alignment with the GHS.

The CLP Regulation adopts the United Nations’ GHS across all European Union countries, including the UK. However, this regulation is under review as a result of Brexit.


Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals is a piece of legislation that you may have to consider alongside CoSHH. It works in conjunction with the CLP regulation to control the chemicals that are supplied in Europe.

A major part of REACH requires manufacturers, or importers of substances, to register them with a central European Chemicals Agency so they can legally produce and sell them.

If any substances are of very high concern, like carcinogens for example - REACH aims to control the use of these substances by going through a lengthy authorisation process - but first and foremost, REACH strongly encourages businesses to swap these substances for safer ones.

REACH also provides a framework for documents to be created, that can pass information down through the supply chain - from manufacturers to importers to suppliers to consumers. It needs to include information on the dangers of using hazardous substances, and how to assess and reduce any associated health & safety risks.


The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is the parent piece of legislation surrounding occupational safety and health in the UK.

Simply put, the Act ensures that employers must protect the health, safety and welfare of all their employees, temps, the self-employed, visitors and the general public.

The importance of CoSHH Training

Section 12: INFORMATION, INSTRUCTION and TRAINING stipulates that every employee should be aware of:

(a) details of the substances hazardous to health to which the employee is liable to be exposed
(b) the significant findings of any risk assessments conducted;
(c) the appropriate precautions and actions to be taken by the employee in order to safeguard himself and other employees at the workplace;
(d) the results of any monitoring of exposure and, in particular, in the case of a substance hazardous to health for which a maximum exposure limit has been approved, the employee or his representatives shall be informed forthwith if the results of such monitoring show that the maximum exposure limit has been exceeded;
(e) the collective results of any health surveillance undertaken in a form calculated to prevent those results from being identified as relating to a particular person...

Every employer who undertakes work which is liable to expose an employee to a substance hazardous to health shall provide that employee with suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
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