COSHH Regulations FAQs

Frequently asked questions about COSHH regulations and how to comply.

What does COSHH stand for?

COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health.

What is a hazardous substance?

A substance hazardous to health that has one or more hazardous property. These substances come in many forms which includes:

  • Chemicals
  • Products containing chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dusts
  • Vapours
  • Mists
  • Nanotechnology
  • Gases and asphyxiating gases
  • Biological agents (germs)

What legislation does the UK follow for COSHH?

The legislation for hazardous substances in the UK is The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. These regulations require employers to control exposure from any substances that may be hazardous to health. The Health and Safety Executive has produced a COSHH Essentials guidance note that helps explain Employers responsibilities and duties.

What are the COSHH hazard symbols?

The internationally recognised system for COSHH symbols is called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) and use pictograms and symbols to help recognise the chemicals risks.

These symbols distinguish the hazards associated with each particular substance. These pictograms appear in the shape of a diamond with a red border and white background.

What is a COSHH assessment and what is a COSHH data sheet?

A COSHH assessment focuses on the hazards and risks from substances in your workplace to establish controls to prevent harm.

A COSHH data sheet or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is provided by the supplier of a chemical or substance and provides information about the potential hazard/s a substance or chemical presents and provides information about safe handling, storage and emergency procedures.

Data sheets are not a replacement for a risk assessment – you need to undertake your own risk assessment separately however the SDS might be helpful in achieving a suitable assessment.

What are the effects of exposure to hazardous substances?

Effects from exposure to a hazardous substance vary depending on the substance – they can range from effects which might be acute and go away such as dermatitis to severe chronic effects such as respiratory diseases like asthma. Long-term or intense exposure can also cause diseases such as cancer.

How can a worker be exposed to a hazardous substance?

There are a number of ways a worker might be exposed to a hazardous substance, including:

  • Inhalation or breathing in substances
  • Contact with the skin or eyes
  • Ingestion swallowing a substance from contaminated hands
  • Injection such puncturing the skin

Should hazardous substances be locked away?

Hazardous substances should be properly controlled and stored safely often being locked away safely from workers not authorised to use them or if there are vulnerable people who may be at risk of accidentally accessing them, such as patients, children or those with visual impairment.

Do employers have to provide employees with copies of the COSHH risk assessment?

Employers have a legal duty to provide information to their employees about workplace risks and hazards, as well as suitable instruction and training to use appropriate control measures.