All of us have a right to feel safe and protected in the workplace, no matter the nature of our job or the industry we operate in. Of course, some environments are more hazardous than others – a busy construction site will typically pose a greater risk of physical injury than an office, for example. But whatever the situation, both the employer and the employee have a responsibility to abide by health and safety regulations, especially where hazardous substances are involved. There is a law, known as COSHH, which is designed to ensure these substances are properly controlled. But what exactly can businesses and their staff do to prevent potentially dangerous accidents from occurring?
What is COSHH?
COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, a law that requires companies to limit or prevent their employees’ exposure to such materials. Even common substances such as paint or bleach can prove harmful, so it’s vital that all members of an organisation are doing their bit to mitigate against the risks involved. Here’s how they can do that:
The employer’s responsibility
- Provide appropriate PPE – In the form of gloves, masks, bodysuits and eyewear. These should prevent any substances coming into contact with a person’s eyes, mouth and skin.
- Restrict access – Any potentially harmful materials should be kept in a separate box or cupboard, secured by a robust padlock for which only a small number of staff possess the combination or key.
- Create an inventory – Businesses should keep track of what substances they have on site. This should include the number of containers and how much is in each one, as well as a record of who last accessed the materials.
- Put up clear signage – Hazard warnings should be placed at appropriate points around the site to ensure all staff are fully aware of the dangerous nature of these materials.
- Have a first aid kit to hand – If anything does go wrong, medical equipment should be fully stocked and close at hand, to help treat any injuries immediately.
The employees’ responsibility
- Follow the guidelines – The employer should have clear safety protocols in place and it is up to staff to adhere to those. If anything seems ambiguous or confusing, they should be encouraged to ask before using any of the substances.
- Use the PPE – The equipment has been provided for a reason, and employees should not be accessing any of the materials without taking the necessary precautions first.
- Complete mandatory training – Staff at all levels should be undertaking regular courses that educate them on the risks posed by these substances, how they should be used safely and what action to take if something does go wrong.
- Report any issues immediately – If there are any problems, employees must inform their supervisor straight away, as a rapid response could make the difference between minor and serious damage.
You may also like: The Many Advantages of System Performance Monitoring