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Every year, thousands of workers are made ill by hazardous substances, contracting lung disease such as asthma, cancer and skin disease such as dermatitis. Symptoms can take years to develop so it is not advisable to continue practices where personnel have high exposure to harmful substances even if signs of illness are not showing.
You, as the employer, are responsible for taking effective measures to control exposure and protect health.
What is COSHH?
COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. You can prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances by:
finding out what the health hazards are;
deciding how to prevent harm to health (risk assessment);
providing control measures to reduce harm to health;
making sure they are used;
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.
Which substances are harmful and should be included in COSHH?
Dusty or fume-laden air can cause lung diseases, e.g. in welders, quarry workers or woodworkers.
Metalworking fluids can grow bacteria and fungi which cause dermatitis and asthma.
Flowers, bulbs, fruit and vegetables can cause dermatitis.
Wet working, eg catering and cleaning, can cause dermatitis.
Prolonged contact with wet cement in construction can lead to chemical burns and/or dermatitis.
Benzene in crude oil can cause leukaemia.
30 Dec 1999
04 Nov 2012
23 Nov 2014
01 Jan 2008
31 Jan 2013
18 Dec 2011
Also available from the HSE:
Preventing contact dermatitis at work Leaflet INDG233 (rev1) HSE Books 2007 (PDF)