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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.

If you're wondering if CoSHH applies in your workplace, then the answer is almost certainly a yes. Of course, there are some businesses that use more hazardous substances than others but every business will have exposure to at least one form of this type or another-whether they know about them or not!

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations

CoSHH legislation first commenced on the 21st of November 2002. CoSHH 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 Substances

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. To find out more about asbestos regulations, check out our asbestos awareness training course.

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).

What CoSHH Symbols mean

The GHS and CLP regulations use various symbols to identify substances that can be hazardous if incorrectly stored or used. When working with substances, it's important to understand CoSHH symbols and their meanings.

Explosive: The container holds a potentially unstable explosive substance

Flammable: The container holds a flammable liquid, gas, solid or an aerosol

Oxidising: The container holds an oxidising liquid, gas or solid

Gas Under Pressure: The container holds compressed, liquified, refrigerated liquified or dissolved gas 

Environmental Hazard: The contents could be an acute or chronic hazard to the environment

Toxic: The contents are toxic when swallowed, breathed in or absorbed through the skin (bleach, pesticides etc.)

Very Toxic: Can cause significant harm or death, even if just a small amount enters the body

Corrosive: A physical and health hazard. Corrosive to metal and skin

Health Hazard: The substance can irritate the eyes or cause skin irritation, inflammation or dermatitis

Serious Health Hazard: The substance can be a breathing hazard or cause long-term health complications

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

At iHASCO, we provide an in-depth online CoSHH training course for organisations to safely control and manage substances that are hazardous to health.

Our online CoSHH training course includes all key information to keep your employees safe from substances that could be potentially harmful. This includes the Globally Harmonized System, harmful substances and how to safely store and manage potentially harmful substances in a workplace.

Online CoSHH Training