COSHH…does it really mean anything? 29 Aug 2018
COSHH…does it really mean anything?
Controversial question right? Of course it means something! It is the law, it is something we must comply with, and after all who wants to expose someone to substances hazardous to their health?
Do we know what we should be doing under the COSHH regs, do we know who we should be talking to? As a health and safety professional I would like to say ‘yes. I am totally confident our industry has got this by the horns and it is integral to what we do.’ I can’t say that with as much confidence as I would like.
In a recent review when companies were asked for ‘health and safety data sheets’ they seem to have just heard ‘data sheets’ therefore send technical data sheets, the ones to meet the specification requirement and not the manufacturers safety data sheet, the one that helps us prevent injury and ill health to those that really matter to us as an industry. So another request is sent making it clear this is about health and safety, more time spent simply asking for the correct information. We get there eventually which is the important bit, or is it?
Shouldn’t health and safety be ‘at the top of the agenda’ for everyone? I don’t think so, I think it needs to be integral to what a business does, it needs to be part of what we do and not a stand-alone department with ‘special treatment’ because ‘it’s the right thing to do’. Yes, the health and safety of individuals is paramount but HOW we nurture the industry is what gives us results.
How many people know what we need to do with COSHH and assessments or how to complete one? Do those working with the substances even know what the risks to their health are? Do they know a product can affect their fertility or cause cancer? Do they know how they can help prevent such effects? Have they seen a COSHH assessment for that product? How do they know a product poses a risk to their health?
It comes back to the same old thing, communication, talking, being open and honest. A Health and Safety Professional is not there to wonder around with a big stick, I like to think of my role as a supporter, a spokesperson, a protector, someone in an affectionate and passionate role to push for a healthier and safer future for those affected by our works.
Talk to the following people when you are looking at the substances used in your work, you could learn something very valuable and share that information:
- Manufacturer (and their safety data sheet)
- Sales representatives
- Industry news
- The HSE website (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg136.pdf)
- Health and Safety Manager
- Operational employees
- PPE provider
Treat your COSHH assessments like risk assessments, identify the hazards, identify who could be harmed and how, evaluate the risks and decide on any control measures, document the findings review and update the information and most importantly make sure it is effectively communicated.
You may find if someone knows the reasons behind what we do, they are more likely to see past the clipboard.
Blog post by Melissa Fazackerley, Longworth SHEQ Manager
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