COSHH Assessments

There are many substances and preparations that have the potential to cause harm to humans, for example, through ingestion, inhalation or absorption.

Health and Safety Executive guidance states that the purpose of the risk assessment under regulation 6 of COSHH is “to enable employers to make valid decisions about the measures needed to prevent or adequately control the exposure of their employees to substances hazardous to health arising from the work”.

Under COSHH, the risk assessment must be “suitable and sufficient” and, according to guidance in the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP), “should take into account the properties of the hazardous substance or biological agent, how and when they can give rise to risks to health, and the degree to which those risks need to be taken into account”.

The ACOP also provides details as to what factors need to be given consideration in order to meet the “suitable and sufficient” criteria, including:

  • the work activity in terms of all the substances used, produced, etc.
  • the hazards in terms of the substances’ properties (physical, chemical, biological) and the form in which they are present (such as mist, gas or vapour)
  • the ways in which people may be exposed and any persons especially at risk
  • the type and extent of exposure, along with potential health effects
  • the control measures that may be required to eliminate or control exposure.

The ACOP also emphasises the need to take into consideration how the materials may be present on work premises. This may be, for instance, because they are brought into the workplace for use, emerge as a by-product of a work activity (such as waste products) or used for maintenance or repair work.