Hazardous substances

UK and EU laws for the control of hazardous substances:

United Kingdom and the European Nations have regulated a law regarding the usage of the hazardous substances at workplace or any other places. Some of the laws are COSHH, ROHS, and FHSA etc.

The control of the substances hazardous to health (COSHH) related to the control of the hazardous substances that are harmful to health when the substances come in contact to the person.

COSHH can prevent the people exposure to perilous substances by finding what are dangerous to health and the methods to prevent that harm the health and provide the proper control measures in working order and providing the training for the people about the substances.

Many companies and the businesses uses the substances for the different purposes like cleaning etc where the substances contain many harmful concentrated solutions such as paint, bleach etc .

What are hazardous substances?

The substances such as chemicals, dusts, gases, biological agents, substances that contain chemicals etc are called hazardous substances. Most of the chemical substances are indicated with the hazard symbols. The law COSHH do not apply to the metals like lead, asbestos and radioactive substances like uranium etc. The chemicals are indicated with the symbols depending on the stage of its harmfulness.

Corrosive Harmful irritant Toxic

Very toxic [1]

The hazardous substances are very harmful because they stay in the environment for long time after they enter into the air. The ecosystem and the human health are affected due to the increase in the harmful substances in the atmosphere. [2]

Review of the law:

The main objective of the COSHH is to stop and to control the contact to the substances that are harmful to the health to prevent the illness to the health. The COSHH regulations are formatted to make sure that the employers follow some precautionary steps to overcome the risk of contact with the harmful substances at their workplace.

It is possible to control the substances that cause harm to the health by using the controlled equipment in a correct and controlling procedure. The training and the usage of the chemicals only on under the supervision of the experienced person will be helpful to stop the dangers that would be caused by the substances.

The equipment for the CSOHH is general and exhausts ventilation, respiratory protective equipment and personal protective equipment.

The way of using the equipment includes the operating procedure under the supervision and training of the experienced staff. Also testing the equipment regularly to find out if it is working properly and there the record of all the testing should be maintained.[1]

Risk assessments and control measures:

At the working places the business places will first assess the risks that are caused with the hazardous substances used to the employers. COSHH assessments are carried out to find out if the exposure to the chemicals and the harmful substances is acceptable or not.

The COSHH assessments are very systematic which helps to know about the form and quantity of the harmful substance and the possible dangers with the substance and the procedure to store and use it etc. The first possible thing is that they will try to stop using the substance that is hazardous to health but if it is not possible they will try to use in a concise and efficient manner to reduce the dangers caused by them.

It is necessary to control the hazardous substances usage by minimising the amount of exposure to it. There is a certain hierarchy to control the usage of hazardous substances

Eliminate the hazardous substance from use

No use safer substitution

No Provide personal protective equipment

Requirements of COSHH regulations:

The employers must make sure that they follow the control measures and the protective equipment.

The employers should maintain a record of the working and testing of the protective equipment and make sure that they are working properly.

Make sure that the equipment is suitable for the purpose and meet the design standards.

Make sure that the employers should get trained with the usage of the equipment and use them when required.


Monitoring is also an important aspect for the COSHH. It is required the substances can cause serious health risks if the protective measures are not working properly. It is also required to monitor if the usage of the substance is decreased and the exposure to it is minimised or not. The employees must be kept under the health surveillance and monitor the changes in their health.[3]

Some illustrative examples:

Example 1:

In a school a cook was working on the dough for several years. she was working daily in the kitchen to mix the large amount of dough where there were no controls for the dust and with a poor ventilation she was severely affected with the asthma which made her breathing very hard and after some days she is in a situation that she cannot even walk for a while and is permanently stick to the bed. She moves out from the bed only sometimes but this made her life restricted. She contacted the union HSE and the court had given her £200,000 but with the money she could not get her life and health back.

Example 2:

A welding company in Birmingham was not protective measures for the workers to the harmful fumes evolved from the substance which causes serious health problems. The workers are exposed to the fumes coming out from the mild steel and the galvanised materials. The workers are exposed to the fumes for nearly 7-8 hours in a day. The exposure to this kind of fumes makes the workers to suffer from serious health risks like chronic bronchitis, fume fever, COPD sometimes asthma. The inspections made by the HSE found that there were no any protective measures were taken to protect the workers from the fumes which are very harmful. The COSHH assessment revealed that there are no any protective measures followed by the company and sent a notice saying that some improvements are required to minimise the exposure to harmful fumes otherwise leads to prosecution.

The company then fitted some ventilation like the local and the exhaust ventilations to avoid the workers from exposure to fumes. The COSHH assessments and the COSHH protective mechanisms help the workers from the ill health and lead their rest of life with happiness.

Example 3:

A 50 year old person was working as a fitter in a bakery was seriously affected with chronic asthma suddenly. He did not smoke in his life before and he had lot problems in breathing and frequently suffering with the sneezing attacks. At work his eyes were red and watered. After a series of tests revealed that he was suffering from the serious flour dust allergy. The HSE investigations found that he is suffering from the dust allergy.

The result of the investigations made the company to improve the exhaust ventilation and the dust extractor and the suitable protective equipment. The person remained in the same job by using the protective equipment and he is still under medication to control his symptoms and lead a better health.[1]

1. http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/basics.htm

2. http://www.icpdr.org/icpdr-pages/hazardous_substances.htm


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