Control of exposure to hazardous substances is regulated in the UK by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations.
In order to prevent workplace-induced ill health, the fundamental requirement of COSHH is that exposure to hazardous substances must be prevented. Where prevention is not practicable, exposure must be adequately controlled.
The 2004 COSHH amendment Regulations provided a new framework for determining adequate control by setting down the principles of good practice and introducing workplace exposure limits (WELs).
Regulation 7(7) of COSHH states that control of exposure to a substance hazardous to health will only be treated as adequate if the ‘principles of good practice’ are applied and the WEL is not exceeded. However, if the hazardous substance is either a human carcinogen or causes sensitisation then exposure should be reduced to as low as is reasonably practicable (ALARP). WELs are published in the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) booklet EH40.
Principles of good practice for control of Hazardous Substances are:
- (a) Design and operate processes and activities to minimise emission, release and spread of substances hazardous to health.
- (b) Take into account all relevant routes of exposure – inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion – when developing control measures.
- (c) Control exposure by measures that are proportionate to the health risk.
- (d) Choose the most effective and reliable control options which minimise the escape and spread of substances hazardous to health.
- (e) Where adequate control of exposure cannot be achieved by other means, provide, in combination with other control measures, suitable personal protective equipment.
- (f) Review regularly all elements of control measures for their continuing effectiveness.
- (g) Inform and train all employees on the hazards and risks from the substances with which they work and the use of control measures developed to minimise the risks.
- (h) Ensure that the introduction of control measures does not increase the overall risk to health and safety.
Note, the important hazardous substances of lead and asbestos are regulated by their own legislation (The Control of Lead at Work Regulations and the Control of Asbestos Regulations).
Gully Howard Technical’s Chartered Occupational Hygienists can assess workers’ exposure to hazardous substances and also advise on control measures to reduce such exposure. For full details please visit our Occupational Hygiene pages. Alternatively, contact us at: Enquiries@ghtechnical.com / 023 9272 8040.