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COSHH covers substances that are hazardous to health. Substances can take many forms and include:

  • Chemicals;

  • Products containing chemicals;

  • Fumes;

  • Dusts;

  • Vapours;

  • Mists;

  • Nanotechnology;

  • Gases and asphyxiating gases, and;

  • Biological agents (germs).

COSHH does not cover

  • Lead;

  • Asbestos, or;

  • Radioactive substances.

Before you start your COSHH assessment, you need to think about:

  • What do you do that involves hazardous substances?

  • How can these cause harm?

  • How can you reduce the risk of harm occurring?

Always try to prevent exposure at source, for example:

  • Can you avoid using a hazardous substance or use a safer process – preventing exposure, e.g. using water-based rather than solvent-based products, applying by brush rather than spraying?

  • Can you substitute it for something safer – e.g. swap an irritant cleaning product for something milder, or using a vacuum cleaner rather than a brush?

  • Can you use a safer form, e.g. can you use a solid rather than liquid to avoid splashes or a waxy solid instead of a dry powder to avoid dust?

The objective of COSHH is to prevent, or to adequately control, exposure to substances hazardous to health, so as to prevent ill health and you can do this by:

  • Using control equipment, e.g. total enclosure, partial enclosure, LEV;

  • Controlling procedures, e.g. ways of working, supervision and training to reduce exposure, maintenance, examination and testing of control measures;

  • Worker behaviour, making sure employees follow the control measures;

  • Changing how often a task is undertaken, or when, or reducing the number of employees nearby, can make an improvement to exposure control.

Where control measures are in place it is important to use them properly and this includes:

  • Wearing any PPE necessary;

  • Using control equipment;

  • Following hygiene procedures;

  • Warning supervisors if anything appears to be wrong.

If you need to implement COSHH risk assessments or a COSHH register within your organisation, we can help you! Call Lyn on 0800 083 6458 or e-mail


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