Title: Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) (as amended)
Category: UK Regulation
Reference : SI 2002/2677 [Full text] (SI 2003/978 [Full text], SI 2004/3386 [Full text])
The 2002 regulations (as amended) replace earlier COSHH regulations (1988, 1994, 1999), and set down a framework intended to protect the health of anybody likely to come into contact with hazardous substances during the course of their work. The Regulations set out essential measures that employers (and sometimes employees) have to take. Failure to comply with COSHH, in addition to exposing employees to risk, constitutes and offence and is subject to penalties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Hazardous substances are any that could result in ill heath (only asbestos, lead materials producing ionising radiation and substances below ground in mines, which all have their own regulations, are excluded); but as far as agriculture is concerned some (but by no means all) of the main types include:
- any chemicals labelled as toxic, corrosive, harmful or irritant (i.e. pesticides);
- veterinary medicines;
- gasses or fumes;
These regulations apply to employers, employees and the self-employed. Employees are obliged to make full use of any safety/control measures put into place, and report any defects in these facilities or processes that may result in their failure. Employers and the self-employed are required to:
- Carry out an assessment of the risks presented by hazardous substances, and there is a requirement that this assessment be suitable and sufficient for the purpose (i.e. a token assessment would not be sufficient to avoid the regulations).
- Both identify and implement any control measures that may be needed to prevent or adequately control exposure.
- Ensure that once implemented the control measures are used, protective equipment is properly maintained, and safety procedures followed.
- Tell employees of the hazards involved, and train them in the precautions needed to avoid them.
The assessment must be a systematic review, and consider:
- What substances are present, in what amounts and in what form?
- What harmful effects are possible?
- Where and how are the substances handled and used?
- What harmful substances are given off?
- Who could be affected, to what extent, for how long, and in what circumstances?
- How likely is it that that exposure will happen?
- What precautions need to be taken to prevent or control exposure and thereby comply with the rest of the COSHH Regulations?
2. Introduction of appropriate control measures
On the basis of the assessment you have to decide which control measures are appropriate to your work situation in order to deal effectively with any hazardous substances that may be present. This may mean preventing exposure by:
- Changing the process, or removing the hazardous substance.
- Substituting safer substances.
Or where this is not practicable:
- Totally enclosing the process.
- Using partial enclosure and extraction equipment.
- General ventilation.
- Using safe systems of work and handling procedures.
It must be ensured that control measures are used and that equipment is properly maintained and procedures observed. However, this is not sufficient in itself; employers also have to ensure that they are properly applied via equipment maintenance, examination and test of control measures.
Where necessary, the exposure of the workers must be monitored, and an appropriate form of surveillance of their health carried out. COSHH requires that the exposure of workers should be monitored in certain cases, for example:
- Where there could be serious risks to health if control measures were to fail or deteriorate.
- If you cannot be sure that exposure limits are not being exceeded.
- Where you cannot be sure that particular control measures are working properly.
Employees must be informed about the risks arising from their work, the precautions to be taken and, if carried out, the results of monitoring and the collective, anonymised results of health surveillance.
Note: Further guidance on specific aspects of COSHH in agriculture is published by the Health and Safety Executive.
Pertinence to Agriculture: Health and Safety, Pesticides