Safety Cabinets and COSHH Compliance

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, requires employers to ensure any chemicals and dangerous substances used on the premises are stored and handled in a way that minimises the risks posed by those substances both to the environment and to those in contact with the substances

This is a pretty broad brush requirement when non-compliance can result in punitive fines or even incarceration. So how do you go about complying with COSHH? The answer, as in virtually all health and safety legislation today is Risk Assessment. You need to analyse your business to assess any risks arising from the storage and handling of any dangerous substances. Any identified risks to the people working on the premises, visitors or any potential negative impact on the environment- should then be actioned to minimise the risks identified.

In practice start the process by identifying what constitutes a dangerous substance. Any hazardous chemical should be supplied with a safety data sheet and the container should be marked with a hazard warning label. Typically hazardous substances are classed as toxic, corrosive, acid, alkali, explosive or flammable. If you see any of these labels but don’t have a related product safety data sheet contact your supplier.

The data sheet should detail any incompatible substances that may compound the risks if they are mixed so as a golden rule it is better to store in different COSHH or safety cabinets manufactured for that specific group of hazardous substances, Acids with Acids, toxics with toxics, and so on. Flammables are a special category and come under the DSEAR regulations but the same principles apply.

Within the actual workplace only store the minimum quantity of dangerous substances possible- for example enough for a days work. Store any bulk quantities in a separate designated secure area away from the workforce.

Any staff handling dangerous substances should be properly trained in their use and properly equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment. Needless to say in the aftermath of an accident you may need to prove this so keep up to date training and safety records.

If a substance is clearly toxic or otherwise dangerous if released into the environment take adequate precautions to prevent leaks and spills, for example by storing in cabinets with spill trays or sumps. Despite this precaution the risk of a spill is still possible so have spill containment products available to contain and remove spills before they leak into watercourses and drains or seep into land.

Risk assessment is about being honest with yourself when assessing the potential risks your business generates. Cutting safety corners may save money in the short term but may ultimately cost lives as well as your livelihood and quite possibly your actual liberty.