The Essentials of COSHH

All businesses use chemicals of some description. Whether it’s cleaning products kept under the sink, printer toners sat in the stationary cupboard or the materials used in a manufacturing process, chemicals are used everywhere.

Controlling the exposure of these materials in the workplace is not only essential but required by law under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, what we all know as COSHH.
Carrying out a COSHH assessment doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you follow a few simple steps.


Identify the hazards

You can find about a materials hazards by reading the product label and for more detailed information the Safety Data Sheet  (MSDS). A full  MSDS with 16 sections should have been provided with any material or substance which you have sourced. If you did not receive one when purchased, the supplier should make it clear on how you can access a digital copy or request a hard copy in the post.

Assess the risks

When assessing the risks, think about how the chemical is used in the activity and ask yourself the following questions.

How are people exposed?  Consider where the chemical is used, is it indoors or outdoors? How is the chemical used, decanted or transferred to other containers. Also think about how the quantity of chemical used for the activity.

How often and for how long?

Who else might be exposed?

What are you doing now to control the risks?

What else needs to be done?

Who and when will the actions be completed?

A great publication is available from the HSE which contains a list of workplace exposure limits for use with the COSHH regulations. You can download a free copy by clicking the link below.

EH40 Workplace exposure limits

Control the risks

  • Eliminate, Can you get rid of the material or change it for a safer alternative?
  • Change the Process, Can you change the process to minimise the exposure?
  • Contain, reduce escape of harmful materials with enclosures or ventilation.
  • Use Safe systems of work, restrict assess of people, store appropriately and make sure incomparably materials are stored separately.
  • Cleaning, have regular cleaning regimes and clean spillages immediately.
  • Personal protective equipment or PPE – if you are unable to control by any other means use apposite personal protective equipment. This should be implemented only whether control measures are not assessed as adequate.


It is generally good practice to review your COSHH assessments periodically because over time your activities may change, the way they are performed may change or you may be using different materials.

The HSE has a great online tool to help you with your COSHH assessments. You can access this by following the link below

COSHH e-Tool

If you need extra support with your COSHH assessments or need advice on chemical safety, handling, storage or transport then get in touch.

You can read more about our Chemistry Solutions here.