Test yourself with our COSHH quiz

Take our COSHH quiz to see if you know everything you should about COSHH.

There can only be a tiny minority of people who have never heard the acronym COSHH. We all know what it stands for, and what we must do as a result. But do we? Is our knowledge as thorough as we might like?

Life as we live it in the 21st century is made possible by our mastery of thousands of chemicals in common use. Used correctly, they can add to the quality of life; used incorrectly, they can do exactly the opposite.

The biggest danger they pose comes not from the chemicals themselves, but from the way we use and store them. Those using these chemicals must be familiar with the correct use of COSHH Cabinets for safe COSHH storage. Familiarity with these products can allow sloppiness to creep into our attitudes to the way we use and store them.

Therefore, we’ve developed this simple COSHH quiz to let you discover how much you know, or thought you knew, about the risks you may deal with every day.

COSHH Questions and Answers (including a COSHH Symbols Quiz)

1. What does COSHH stand for?

A) Control of substances harmful to health;
B) Control of substances hazardous to health;
C) Control of substances hazardous to hands

2. Which of the following are not covered by COSHH regulations?

A) Germs;
B) Radioactive substances;
C) Fumes

3. What qualifications must you hold to do COSHH risk assessments?

A) IOSH;
B) NEBOSH;
C) None

4. A COSHH cabinet must always be secured to floor or wall. True or false?

5. COSHH regulations were first introduced into the UK in which year?

A) 1988;
B) 1998;
C) 2008

6. Significant findings from any COSHH risk assessments must always be recorded

A) for companies with 10 employees or more;
B) for companies with 5 employees or more;
C) for every company, regardless of the number of employees

7. If COSHH-controlled substances are present in a workplace, and dust may arise from them, good ventilation is necessary. How many complete changes of air per hour are recommended?

A) 1-3;
B) 3-5;
C) 5-10

8. Which of the following is NOT a requirement for a COSHH cabinet?

A) It must contain a series of drawers for small tins and bottles;
B) It must be constructed so as to be tamper-proof;
C) It must be lockable.

9. Any substance covered by COSHH can be stored in all COSHH cabinets. True or false?

10. Which of the following is COSHH NOT designed to protect?

A) Staff in hospitals;
B) Children in schools;
C) Workers in the offshore industry;
D) Vulnerable adults in care homes.

11. The illustration on this blog shows seven symbols associated with materials that might be associated with COSHH. What do they mean? (Score one point for each correct answer)

COSHH Quiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. If a COSHH cabinet is available, it is acceptable to use it for storing products in other than their original packaging, so long as the name of the contents is written on the alternative packaging in capital letters. True or false?

COSHH Quiz Answers

1 B;

2 B;

3 C;

4 False – mobile versions exist;

5 A;

6 B;

7 C;

8 A;

9. False. Flammable materials should be stored in fire-resistant COSHH cabinets;

10 None of the above. It is intended to protect all groups;

11) A = explosive; B = oxidising; C = corrosive; D = harmful to the environment; E = harmful; F = toxic; G = flammable;

12. False. Under no circumstances should products be stored in other than their original packaging.

How did you do in our COSHH Quiz?

Award yourself three points for each correct answer.

If you scored 40, you’re probably in a safety-related job. If you’re not, then you may have missed your vocation.

If you scored 30 or more, you’re probably careful at work, and understand both why COSHH is necessary and the consequences of ignoring it.

If you scored 18 or more, you probably need a refresher, and it would be advisable to speak to someone about ways to brush up your knowledge.

If you scored 9 or less, it’s a wonder you’re allowed out on your own, since you could well be putting not only your life at risk, but the lives of your colleagues too.

How to choose COSHH storage cabinets

COSHH storage is relatively simple once you are aware of the risks, and how important it is to protect people from them. Used in conjunction with the proper training and discipline, COSHH cabinets will protect the people in your business, no matter what it is, by keeping dangerous materials under control.

Our range of COSHH cabinets are of robust construction, and have a powder-coated finish as well as interiors designed to contain spills, should they occur. Specific detail about each of the products is available on its product page, but as a general word of advice we’d suggest you pick one that might appear to be larger than you need, to allow for business growth. However, don’t be tempted to use the space to buy more of the substances you intend to store than you actually need. Larger volumes usually translate into larger risks!

We are passionate about helping you and making your compliance obligations that little easier to manage. We would be keen to know how you did in our COSHH quiz so follow us on Twitter here and let us know how you got on!

Initially, think of what’s most important

Brevity created by shortening formal names into shorthand versions using their initials holds a danger that the purpose behind them can be lost. Pausing to think about what lies behind the initials, and why it’s there, is a useful way to remind yourself of their importance. We use the COSHH Regulations to illustrate the point.

BBC, PPE, MOT, and BLT; the verbal shorthand of our language is everywhere. By and large we know what it means. Take the four sets of initials we started with. You don’t even have to think about them, since the abbreviated form has become the accepted norm.

But there can be a danger with these verbal short cuts that the reality gets lost through over-familiarity, which as we all know, breeds contempt.

Take COSHH, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002), to give them their full title.

The role of COSHH

The purpose of COSHH legislation is to allow the use of hazardous substances in the workplace, but to spell out rules for the way they are used and stored in order to protect employees and the environment from the harm they could potentially cause.

And with that in mind, we’d like to offer an alternative set of words to attach to the COSHH acronym: Come and See me Here in Hospital. Thinking of that provides a reminder of what might be necessary in the event of too casual an attitude being adopted to materials covered by the legislation. With that in mind, we’d like to sharpen the focus on the regulations, and the implication for your employees – in order to avoid you having to exercise the hospital option…

Who’s covered by COSHH regulations

It would be a mistake to think of this legislation as being about ‘industry’ in the traditional sense. The Regulations are plain: the people being protected are ‘workers’, and in this case that means all employees, no matter what their job role, as well as university students and schoolchildren. Equally, everyone is covered, including visitors and people on placements, for example. In short, there’s a requirement to protect everyone close to a hazardous substance.

What substances come under the scope of COSHH regulations?

Oddly, no specific substances are mentioned in the legislation, though some are specifically excluded*. This is an indication of just how broad-reaching the legislation is, since it applies to types of substances: Chemicals, or products they’re found in, along with fumes, dust, vapours, gases, and even bacteria, are all covered. Consequently, the actual substances people must be protected from are extremely numerous.

* Radioactive materials, asbestos, and lead are sufficiently noxious to have their own specific legislation, so aren’t covered by COSHH rules.

How to assess my workplace risks

You’ll need to do a formal COSHH assessment. Things to look out for vary between locations as well as by processes. The Health and Safety Executive offers a very helpful selection of sample assessments to guide you through the assessment relating to your own situation – or one very much like it. Advice is offered about how to remove things you can do without, or control access to things that must stay.

Be thorough. There’s no doubt a list of substances that need to stay will be highlighted as hazardous in your COSHH assessment, and that means that the range of available protection, in the form of COSHH cabinets, comes in all shapes and sizes.

Always Seek Knowledge

Tell me about COSHH cabinets

The substances covered by the COSHH Regulations will usually dictate the most appropriate storage solution. A range of COSHH Cabinets offered by the Safety Storage Centre is designed specifically with COSHH compliance in mind, but the web site also offers one of the largest range of haz-chem cabinets on the web, and one of those might serve your COSHH needs equally well.

Wherever you buy your COSHH cabinet from, you’ll need to look and ask yourself these questions, and factor the answers into your buying decision:

• Is it the right size for what I need to store?
• Does it comply with COSHH and DSEAR regulations?
• Does is have a sump to catch spills?
• Is it made from strong material, using robust construction methods?
• Can the contents be segregated?
• Should I have a keyed or combination lock?
• Does it need to be fixed, or mobile?
• Does it have a smoke detector? Do I need one?

There’s much more to the COSHH regulations than can be covered in this blog, including a wealth of industry-specific information and guidance, available on the HSE web site. If you’re unsure, then ask. Safety Storage Centre staff are knowledgeable and helpful.

The knowledge dimension

Earlier I spoke about familiarity breeding contempt. This is arguably more true anywhere else than in dealing with hazardous chemicals. Because people using them have done so safely for long periods of time there is a danger that they can become immune to the hazards they are handling. And yet the dangers inherent in the substances are never diminished. It is therefore vital for everyone to be trained not only to understand what those hazards are, but also that they have a responsibility to use and store the materials correctly.

Keep workers safe

And finally remember that time spent in making sure you comply with the letter as well as the spirit of the COSHH Regulations will keep workers safe, and there will be no need to spend time hospital visiting or dealing with HSE inquiries into accidents.

A gram of prevention is equal to a kilo of cure.

Why protecting the environment needs us all to work together

On June 5th the United Nations will be promoting World Environment Day, this year to make us aware that we’re using the planet’s resources faster than is sustainable. Safety Storage Centre wants to do its bit by raising awareness of the need for safe storage of chemicals, so there’s no danger of them causing pollution in spills that damage our under-pressure resources.

The French know a thing or two about food, and they’ve just changed their rules to make it go further. From now on supermarkets in the country aren’t allowed to throw any away.

It happens in many food stores, not only in France, but around the developed world. Once stock gets close to being out of date off the shelves it goes, ready to be replaced with newer incarnations of the same thing. This clever new law will force supermarkets to become inventive with what method they choose for disposal. Some will no doubt be donated, some will go for animal food. All of it will have a beneficial use.

We’re all a bit guilty

World Environment DayHowever, there’s an underlying issue here, and it’s that we’ve brought this situation on ourselves. It starts because we tend to seek out the longest-dated item or the best-looking vegetables on the supermarket shelves, regardless of the fact that the less attractive ones are perfectly safe to eat. Some of it never even gets to the shelves; cauliflowers have lots of leaves that are hacked off before the heart is offered for sale; sprouts grow on stems that are topped with leaves, almost like a free cabbage.

The problem is that we just don’t want them. It gets worse because we then over-purchase, and throw food away at the end of the week, and that problem’s compounded because local authorities have to find some way of disposing of it all.

The environmental elephant in the room

But the real elephant in the room is that we can’t afford it – not in a monetary sense, though we could arguably make better use of our cash – but in an environmental sense. Put simply, we’re putting too much pressure on the resources the planet can deliver. We need to be more careful, or there will be nothing left for our grandchildren.

That’s the message coming from the United Nations for this year’s World Environment Day on June 5th. This year’s theme is about consuming with care. Says the UN World Environment Day web site:

“The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. And yet, evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide.”

What chemical storage cabinets have to do with World Environment Day

All the more reason, then, to look after what we have.

Safety Storage Centre recognises the dangers to the planet of spilled chemicals, but also understands that they have a role to play in our lives. Careful storage is therefore required, and is covered by a number of regulations.

We’ve pulled the important ones together on our advice pages, which will help you do your bit for the planet by making sure all the hazardous materials you need are used correctly, and kept out of harms’ way in the correct chemical storage cabinets when they’re not needed.

Most chemicals and other hazardous materials are covered by the COSHH – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health – regulations, which we show on our advice pages. There are a number of COSHH cabinets in our product range, all designed to comply with the relevant legislation. Details of each of which can be found on the individual product pages.

A really helpful step-by-step guide to implementing the COSHH regulations is part of our advice pages here.

Picture: Gajus via Dreamstime

The skull and crossbones marked a COSHH cabinet ahead of its time

Learn what the COSHH regulations are, what they mean to you, and how to protect people over whom you have a duty of care in the workplace by doing an accurate COSHH assessment. Safety Storage Centre illustrates products to help you, and advises on how to select the right ones.

COSHHIt is the skull and crossbones I remember the most. Roughly painted in black on the faded primrose yellow door, it haunted my early childhood, and I certainly never dreamed of opening the door to see what was inside.

The painting was on the door of a weary old kitchen cabinet in the garage round the corner at my friend’s house, where his dad did odd jobs, and where we were allowed to play on rainy days.

Plastic soldiers fought imaginary battles on that garage floor; Dinky toys were props in childhood driving games, and all were overlooked by the unseeing eyes in the badly-drawn skull.

Years later I found that the cabinet contained oils and greases; paint with lead in it, and a lot of other badly-labelled containers half-full of all manner of noxious materials that are probably no longer available. He’d been absolutely right to discourage us from looking inside.

My friend’s Dad was ahead of his time, I suppose, having invented the COSHH cabinet more than 30 years before introduction of the COSHH legislation that made it necessary. (I almost wrote that he’d unintentionally invented it, but the reverse was true. He had fully intended to keep our small boyish fingers away from things that could no doubt have done us a very great deal of harm).

What is COSHH?

COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, and is the name of legislation, introduced to the UK in 2002, giving employers a responsibility to reduce or prevent workers’ exposure to hazardous substances.

Significantly, the definition of ‘workers’ in this context applies just as easily to students in universities and children in schools – and ‘workers’ also covers people in offices as well as those in overalls.

What substances are covered?

Let’s start with what’s not covered. Lead, asbestos and radioactive materials are dealt with under their own legislation, and therefore not covered by COSHH rules.

However, it still leaves a huge range of materials that are within the legislation’s scope. Chemicals, or products containing chemicals, fumes, dust, vapour, mists, gases, and biological agents (germs, to you and me), are all there.

It’s important to note that these are ‘types of things’, rather than specific items. That means the list of actual substances employers (or school and university staff) are required to protect people from, could be extensive indeed.

How do I know what risks are around me?

You’ll need to do a COSHH assessment, and the things you’ll need to look out for vary from location to location and process to process. The Health and Safety Executive have a very helpful selection of sample assessments that will guide you through the process for your own situation – or one very much like it – and show you how to remove things that you can do without, or control access to things that must stay. In terms of schools, it’s a bit obvious, and the warning ‘Keep away from children’ sums it up very well.

There will no doubt be a list of substances identified as hazardous in your COSHH assessment, and that means that the range of available protection, in the form of COSHH cabinets, comes in all shapes and sizes.

COSHH cabinets

Safety Storage Centre offers a large range of hazardous-chemical cabinets, and one of those might serve your COSHH needs – but we also offer a specifically designed range of COSHH cabinets.

Wherever you buy your COSHH cabinet from, you’ll need to ask yourself these questions, and factor the answers into your buying decision:

• Is it the right size for what I need to store?
• Does it comply with COSHH and DSEAR regulations?
• Does is have a sump to catch spills?
• Is it made from strong material, using robust construction methods?
• Can the contents be segregated?
• Should I have a keyed or combination lock?
• Does it need to be fixed, or mobile?
• Does it have a smoke detector? Do I need one?

There’s much more to the COSHH regulations than I can usefully cover in this blog. Nevertheless I trust it’s given you food for thought and if you’re not already familiar with the rules, it might spur you on to find out more on the Health & Safety Executive website.

After all, keeping people safe is part of your duty of care as an employer…

Is it time you did a COSHH assessment?

The law uses the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations to define how businesses must control substances that could be hazardous to the health of employees, their colleagues, of the wider community. The regulations, in their latest form, have been in place since 2002, so a quick refresher is sure to be helpful. It may reveal that the measures you have in place are out of date. Products change constantly, as manufacturers making improvements to existing products and introduce new ones.

What substances are covered?
These come in many forms, and include chemicals, products containing chemicals, fumes, dust, vapours, mists, gases, biological agents (germs) and nanotechnology. Specifically not covered, because they have their own regulations, are lead, asbestos and radioactive substances.

I’m self-employed. Does this apply to me?
Certainly. If you have employees, it all applies to you. If you don’t, but take hazardous substances onto other people’s premises, it all applies to you except for monitoring and health surveillance.

Things to think about before doing a COSHH assessment
What do we do that involves hazardous chemicals?
What harm can these substances cause?
How can we reduce the risk of harm?

COSHH CabinetsAre we using the right chemicals in the right form?
The range of available products is always evolving, so just because a product was the right one ten years ago doesn’t mean it’s still the best option. Manufacturers may have developed less toxic options, or more controllable forms. For example:
Can we avoid using a hazardous substance?
Does a water-based option exist?
Could we brush it on, instead of spraying it?
Could we vacuum things clean, capturing dust, rather than using a brush?
Does the chemical come in a ‘safer’ form? (a solid rather than a liquid, for instance) Keep an eye on the trade press, or talk to others at trade fairs or exhibitions.

Do I have to provide Personal Protective Equipment?
Yes. Employers must provide it for all employees, and replace it when necessary. It must be worn when all other measures are inadequate to control exposure. Advice about what is suitable is available from suppliers, manufacturers or trade associations. You must also instruct employees about how it is to be worn to make sure it is fit for purpose. It’s best to make it as comfortable as possible to ensure employees are prepared to wear it.

Are there exposure limits?
About 500 substances, of the thousands in use in industry, are covered by very specific workplace exposure limits.

What are COSHH Data sheets?
These are information about the substances you use, and describe the hazards presented by the chemicals they refer to, as well as handling and storage recommendations. It’s important to note that a COSHH data sheet is not a risk assessment. The information on the sheet should be used as part of a risk assessment.

Do I need to tell employees about these chemicals?
Yes. All employees working with, or close to, chemicals covered by the regulations need to have the information. They have a right to know the hazards, exposure limits, result of monitoring, health surveillance, and what to do in an emergency. And if you change or add a chemical, they need to be told abut that too.

Where can I find out more?
The Health & Safety Executive is a superb source of information. Visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/index.htm and http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/index.htm

What is COSHH?

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations is enforced to protect people in the workplace against health risks from hazardous substances either used or arising from their work. Typically this covers cleaning agents, solvents and chemical reagents used directly and also substances arising from work practices such as dust, fumes and waste by-products.

COSHH lays down a compliance framework to guide businesses on identifying and implementing the necessary precautions and is therefore an essential management tool. Evidence strongly suggests correct implementation of COSHH has the potential for identifiable cost benefits by reducing substance waste, misuse and the remedial cost of accidental spills.

COSHH applies to virtually all substances hazardous to health. Exceptions include asbestos and lead and substances which are hazardous only because they are radioactive, asphyxiants, at high pressure/temperature or have explosive/flammable properties. Most of these hazards are covered by other Regulations.

COSHH has legal teeth and should not be seen just as a code of practice. Prosecutions are regularly brought for infringements. Hazards to look out for are storing incompatible substances such as acids and alkalis in the same enclosure preferably COSHH rated hazardous Storage Cabinets, storing flammables close to a heat source, inadequate ventilation, inadequate safeguards against environmental pollution such as spill control and lack of PPE ( personal protective equipment) to protect the workforce.

A Step by Step Guide to implementing COSHH legislation can be found in our Advice pages