COSHH Control of Substances Hazardous to Health; Health and Safety Training.
Chemicals and Biological Agents and the Hazards to Health in the workplace.
COSHH covers the chemical and biological materials found in many industries that have proven to be hazardous to health. These substances can seem harmless as they are found in everyday products such as cleaning fluids, paint thinners and garden fertilizers, but if handled incorrectly or under uncontrolled circumstances they can prove to be detrimental to your health and in some cases fatal, particularly if exposure is repeated.
What is COSHH and Why is it important ?
Dangerous toxic chemicals have historically been used to produce a variety of important products, and industry continues to rely on chemicals today in spite of known safety risks. COSHH, which stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, is the set of regulations that aims specifically to address the health issues of using hazardous substances in the workplace, with its primary aim being to prevent ill health.
Hazardous substances are used throughout most modern industries such as Agriculture and Farming, Baking, Beauty, Cleaning, Brick and Tile manufacture, Ceramics, Construction, Engineering, Metal Foundries, Wood and Metal Machining, Microelectronics and Semiconductors, Printing, Quarries, the Service and Retail industries, Slate works, Stonemasons and Welding industries. COSHH covers chemicals, products containing chemicals, fumes, dusts, vapours, mists and gases, as well biological agents (germs).
The Healthcare industry and Laboratory work makes wide use of Biological agents such as Micro-organisms, Bacteria, Viruses, Pathogens, Bugs and Germs which can lead to infections including HIV, Hepatitis and other Blood borne pathogens as well as Anthrax, Influenza, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease), Legionella and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). COSHH also covers asphyxiating gases.
COSHH supplies us with access to knowledge about hazardous substances that we use. Combining this knowledge with established safe work procedures is the best way we can avoid accidents, injuries and illnesses associated with the use of hazardous substances.
How best to avoid injury and ill health from Chemical and Biological Agents.
The best ways to avoid accident and injury to health and safety is to understand the work you do your need to use Chemicals and hazardous substances. If there is no other way to do your work without the use of Substances potentially hazardous to health, understand the risks of an accident or injury occurring.
Always try to prevent exposure at source. For example:
Can you avoid using a hazardous substance or use a safer process – preventing exposure, eg using water-based rather than solvent-based products, applying by brush rather than spraying?
Can you substitute it for something safer – eg swap an irritant cleaning product for something milder, or using a vacuum cleaner rather than a brush?
Can you use a safer form, eg can you use a solid rather than liquid to avoid splashes or a waxy solid instead of a dry powder to avoid dust?
If you must use Hazardous chemicals then take steps to ensure that the risk of exposure is minimised and that the risk of exposure to those around is under control.
Controlling exposure to Hazardous substances can involve ventillation, exhaust and extraction systems. In cases where the air cannot be cleared or cleaned of hazardous chemicals then refuges, Personal protective clothing, Respirators and breathing equipment should be available and near to hand.
Pay attention to controlling spillage, decontamination and clean-up procedures.
Control is said to be adequate when the risk of harm is as low as is reasonably practicable.
Always ensure that protective equipment and exposure control mechanisms are in good working order and regularly maintained.
The consequences of Chemical accidents and injuries to those most at risk are dire and so the law is strict in this regard.
The dangers with some Chemical agents is not so much irritant, corrosive or air born as it is explosive and the risk is one of fire.
Fire Awareness and Fire Safety Training
Fire Safety Management can be defined as those activities which are undertaken to prevent fires from occurring, the controls that manage fire systems and emergencies and in the event of an uncontrolled fire, the suppression methods used to extinguish it.
Fire Safety Management is therefore comprised of three essential elements:
For a fire to occur it requires three things: Fuel in the form of a Flammable substance, Air and a source of ignition. Removing any one of these components will prevent a fire.
The wide variety of Chemical substances found in the workplace that are flammable runs from the obvious such as Petrol, Paint Thinners, Welding Gases and Heating fuel. To the less obvious flammable substances such as Packaging materials and dusts such as wood, flour and sugar which can create explosive atmospheres.
Fire Awareness and the dangers of Explosive atmospheres in Health and Safety
Explosive atmospheres can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts accumulating in the air. If there is enough of a flammable substance mixed with air, then all that is required for an explosion to occur is a source of ignition. Explosions can cause loss of life and serious injuries as well as significant damage to the surrounding people and property.
To reduce the risk of explosions occurring it is best to prevent the release of dangerous substances which contribute to creating explosive atmospheres, and to prevent sources of ignition are two widely used ways of reducing the risk. Using the correct equipment can help greatly in this.
Employer Obligations regarding Fire Awareness in workplace Health and Safety
Employers must classify areas where hazardous explosive atmospheres may occur into zones. The classification given to a particular zone, and its size and location, depends on the likelihood of an explosive atmosphere occurring and its persistence if it does.
Areas classified into zones must be protected from sources of ignition. Equipment and protective systems intended to be used in zoned areas should be selected to meet the requirements of the Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 1996. Where necessary, the entry points to areas classified into zones must be marked with a specified ‘EX’ sign.
Employers must provide workers who work in zoned areas with appropriate clothing that does not create the risk of an electrostatic discharge igniting the explosive atmosphere, eg anti-static footwear. The clothing provided depends on the level of risk identified in the risk assessment.
Before a workplace containing zoned areas comes into operation for the first time, the employer must ensure that the overall explosion safety measures are confirmed (verified) as being safe. This must be done by a person or organisation competent to consider the particular risks in the workplace, and the adequacy of the explosion control and other measures put in place.
Safetycare's Fire Awareness Video and DVD's for Health and Safety Training - Fire Awareness
The Safetycare program looks at each of these elements in some detail and concludes with identifying oxygen deprivation as the major cause of fire related deaths.
The Safetycare program is aimed at all personnel to increase the general level of fire awareness. Fire awareness is an attitude, an attitude that incorporates the understanding of the nature, causes, behaviour, control and extinguishing of materials that have caught on Fire.
Safetycare have a variety of COSHH and Fire safety training products available.
All are up to date Health and Safety approved video and DVD titles with accompanying materials including posters and manuals.
Let Safetycare take the trouble out of your COSHH and Fire safety training program