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COSHH is the law which requires UK employers to be proactive in controlling the use or creation of substances in the workplace which may be hazardous to the health of employees and the wider community. To help employers to meet their duties under COSHH regulations, the HSE provide “COSHH Essentials”. COSHH Essentials offer straight forward advice for employers on what to do to control exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances in the workplace and ensure safer chemical storage. This advice is presented in the form of direct advice sheets and generic control guidance sheets with a clever e-tool available to help find the right information sheets for particular substances.

COSHH Essentials does not offer advice for all substances. It covers liquid and solid chemicals, mixtures of chemicals, some process dust and fumes (wood and flour dust, foundry, rubber and some soldering fumes).

Direct Advice Sheets

The direct advice sheets provides advice on specific tasks or processes that employers can take to reduce hazardous chemical exposure in the workplace. There are different sets of advice sheets for different industries. At present, the HSE provides direct advice sheets for industries such as agriculture, flour, metalworking fluids, microelectronics, offshore works, printing, motor vehicle repair, rubber, service and retail, welding and woodworking.

There are also direct advice sheets for industries using silica such as brick and tile, ceramics, construction, foundries, manufacturing, quarries, stone works and slate works. Direct advice sheets provide information on chemical handling and chemical storage best practices as well as best practices in regards to minimising the level of hazardous chemical exposure produced as a result of internal manufacturing processes.

Generic Control Guidance Sheets

The HSE have recently launched a new e-tool which enables employers and employers to locate specific advice sheets or guidance sheets for specific substances. All you need to do is refer to the MSDS for the substance that you are using to enter some basic information about the substance into the tool so that you can be directed to the most relevant control guidance sheets.

If you cannot find the MSDS for a particular substance, contact the supplier of the substance or use an online resource such as MSDSOnline to source the relevant data sheet. Note that COSHH Essentials data sheets only uses R phrases/H statements that relate directly to an impact on human health.

We hope this blog post gives you a better understanding on COSHH Essentials. For more tips and information on ensuring chemical safety in the workplace, check out our other blog posts.