A Guide to COSHH

What is COSHH? COSHH? It is a set of regulations, for controlling substances, which could be hazardous to health. COSHH stands for Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health and came into force in 2002.

The regulations are designed to prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances by:

  • finding out what the health hazards are;
  • deciding how to prevent harm to health (See my Guide to Risk Assessments)
  • providing control measures to reduce harm to health;
  • making sure they are used safely;
  • keeping all control measures in good working order;
  • providing information, instruction and training for employees and others;
  • providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases;
  • planning for emergencies.

Information Cited from the Health an Safety Executive

The first thing you are going to need to do, is have a wonder round your workplace and identify the risks. IE: Do you have cleaning chemicals? Do you store combustible materials such as petrol? Do you store poison, such as rat poison? Once you have identified the risks, you next need to identify how you will control the risk, by using proper PPE, or by using a safer substitute. All the information needs to be entered on your COSHH Risk Assessment.

COSHH in Schools, does not only apply to cleaning chemicals. It can also apply to chemicals used in the Science Labs too. You should liaise with the Head of Science or your Lab Technician, to make sure that your lab is compliant with COSHH.

Next, you need to make sure you have the Data Sheets for the chemicals you are using. Data Sheets are important, as they tell you:

  1. The name of the chemical. (Eg: Jangro Daily Toilet Maintainer)
  2. The ingredients in the chemical
  3. Hazards associated with the chemical
  4. Usage instructions
  5. Storage instructions
  6. Emergency Instructions
  7. Disposal Instructions

So lets break this down and look at each item in the list above.

The name of the chemical
This is quite obvious and I don’t think I need to elaborate on this 🙂

The ingredients in the chemical
The Data Sheet, will tell you what the active ingredients are for the chemical.

Hazards associated with the chemical
The chemical may have hazards associated with it, which will be listed on the Data Sheet.

Usage instructions
The Data Sheet, will provide clear instructions on how to properly use the chemical. This includes the correct PPE. (Personal Protective Equipmment)

Storage Instructions
The Data Sheet will tell you how to store the chemical. For instance, the chemical may require it’s container to be kept upright and in a cool and dry environment,

Emergency Instructions
The Data Sheet will tell you what to do in an emergency, such as a spillage or if you are exposed to the chemical. (IE: you get the chemical in your eyes.

Disposal Instructions
The Data Sheet will give clear instructions on how the chemical is to be disposed. For instance, it may indicate that the chemical is not safe to be washed down the drain) It will also tell you if the container can be recycled or not.

You should make sure that all chemicals are kept in a secure environment. In my School, we have a COSHH Store in the Basement of B Block. and in the Basement in J Block. All COSHH Stores are kept locked and the keys are only accessible to those who need access as part of their job. In each store, there is a folder, which contains the COSHH Data Sheets.

Quit often in my job, I come across chemicals that Teachers bring in from home and “stash” under the sink in their classroom. Not only is this dangerous, (as children can easily get their hands on the chemical) but also a Health and Safety risk. You should always use the same chemicals universally on site. (All our chemicals come from Jangro, so we use their line of products.) Chemicals found under the sink in a Classroom or in a Teacher’s cupboard, are confiscated and destroyed. Usually, the Teacher involved gets a stern ticking off from me. However, normally they ignore what I say and I end up going round in the same circle, on a regular basis.

So that’s my guide to COSHH. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email.