Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002
- Date Act passed:
- 16 Sep 2002
- Act status:
- Statutory instrument ref:
- 2002 No. 2677
- Jurisdiction of the Act:
- England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Who enforces the Act:
- Fines have been given in the past by the HSE ranging from £150 to £3000.
Official description of the Act
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations came into force on 21 November 2002 in order to protect those working with hazardous substances from illnesses such as asthma, dermatitis, cancer and others. They update the 1999 Regulations with changes including definitions of ‘inhalable dust’ and ‘health surveillance’; the new Regulations now clarify and extend steps required in the appropriate risk assessments.
The new Regulations clarify a duty on employers to deal with accidents and emergencies in a satisfactory manner in the control of hazardous substances.
The meaning of hazardous substances is defined as:
- Substances or mixtures of substances classified as dangerous to health under the Chemicals (Hazard, Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002 (CHIP). These have COSHH warning labels and manufacturers must supply data sheets. They cover substances that are very toxic, toxic, harmful, corrosive or irritant under CHIP.
- Substances with workplace exposure limits as listed in EH40 published by the HSE.
- Biological agents (bacteria and other microorganisms) if they are directly connected with the work.
- Any kind of dust in a concentration specified in the Regulations, that is:
- 10mg/m3, as a time-weighted average over an eight-hour period, of total inhalable dust;
- 4mg/m3, as a time-weighted average over an eight-hour period, of respirable dust.
- Any other substance which has comparable hazards to people’s health but which, for technical reasons, is not covered by CHIP.
COSHH covers most substances hazardous to health found in workplaces of all types; these substances include:
- Substances used directly in the employees’ work activities (such as solvents, paints, adhesives and cleaners, etc.).
- Substances generated by work activities (such as dust from sanding and fumes from welding etc.).
- Naturally occurring substances (such as grain dust).
However COSHH does not include:
- Asbestos and lead.
- Substances deemed to hazardous simply because they are:
- simple asphixiants;
- at high pressure;
- at extreme temperatures; or
- have explosive or flammable properties (covered in the Dangerous Substance and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002).
- Biological agents that are not directly connected with work and beyond the employer’s control.
These duties upon the employer extend to (except for health surveillance, monitoring and information and training) people who may be on the site but not directly employed by the employer, even if they are not doing work (for example, contractors and visitors).
There are eight basic steps to comply with COSHH and where employees have no choice but to work with hazardous substances employers must abide by these steps in carrying out a comprehensive risk assessment. The steps are:
- Assess the risks to health.
- Decide what precautions are needed.
- Prevent or adequately control exposure.
- Ensure that control measures are used and maintained.
- Monitor the exposure of employees to hazardous substances.
- Carry out appropriate health surveillance where necessary.
- Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies.
- Ensure employees are properly informed, trained and supervised.
The risk assessment initially made must be regularly reviewed and amended if any relevant changes take place in the working environment.
The self-employed also have duties to comply with COSHH if they too are working with hazardous substances.
Every employer who COSHH applies to must either try to prevent employees from coming into contact with hazardous substances or, where this is impractical, the employee’s risk must be adequately managed. The limit approved for the company by the Certified Authority (e.g. HSE) must not ever be exceeded in order to signify good control and where it is exceeded the employer must take adequate action to ensure that this does not happen again.
Official link to the Act