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How to carry out a COSHH risk assessment

A COSHH assessment concentrates on the hazards and risks from hazardous substances in your workplace.

Remember that health hazards are not limited to substances labelled as ‘hazardous'. Some harmful substances can be produced by the process you use, eg wood dust from sanding, or silica dust from tile cutting.

Identify the hazards

Decide who might be harmed and how

Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Once you have carried out a risk assessment and identified which harmful substances are present, and how workers can be harmed, you need to think about preventing exposure.

The measures you adopt could include the following:

Changing the process to reduce risks

Containment

Systems of work

Cleaning

If you have five or more employees, you must record your assessment but, even if you have fewer than five, it makes sense to write down what steps you have taken to identify the risks. And the really important part is making a list of the actions you have taken to control the risks to workers’ health.

The risk assessment should be regularly reviewed to ensure that it is kept up to date to take into account any changes in your workplace.

Find out more

The law

If your business uses or creates substances, or carries out processes which might cause harm to health, the law requires you to control the risks to employees.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) apply to most harmful substances but lead and asbestos are covered by separate regulations, as specified later in this section.

If you manufacture or import chemicals you should look at the European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation No 1907/2006.

REACH - European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)

If you manufacture, import or formulate chemicals for supply, you should look at the European Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP) Regulation No 1272/2008, and the national Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009 (CHIP).  The CHIP Regulations will be replaced by the CLP Regulation from 1 June 2015.

If you transport chemicals, you should look at the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2004 (as amended 2005) (the Carriage Regulations 2004).

Updated 2013-06-13