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 It may reveal that the measures you have in place are out of date.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

Choosing Hazardous substance storage cabinets

When you first look at the vast range of hazardous storage cabinets you may be forgiven for asking why so many and what’s the difference. On the face of it all the cabinets are COSHH compliant i.e they meet the basic requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations so why not go for a basic COSHH cabinet rather than the substance specific options for flammables, pesticides and acid and alkali’s?

The first question to answer is what specific types and how much of these hazardous substances do you have to secure to comply with COSHH legislation. Secondly you need to be aware of the dangers of storing incompatible substances in the same cabinet. Acids do not go with alkali’s and flammables should be segregated from all other hazards. Aggressive and toxic chemicals such as systemic agricultural pesticides are a direct hazard to health and are subject to additional controls, some requiring licences to store and use. In extreme cases, particularly involving bio hazards specialist cabinets to BS EN14470-1 may be required.

The substance specific cabinets offer more protection and are not just different coloured versions of the same cabinet. Flammable storage cabinets have deep spill tray shelves and deep sumps with welded seams to prevent leakage. Rebated doors prevent accidental exposure to naked flames. An Acid and Alkali cabinet has similar features but are made from Zintec steel for added corrosion resistance. Pesticide Storage cabinets also feature additional louvred ventilation to prevent the build-up of toxic fumes and have galvanised steel rather than powder coated shelves. Of course all the cabinets have hazard specific corrosion resistant powder coated finish, quality key locking for access control and security and hazard specific warning labels.

For those storing hazardous substances on site the different colour coded finishes provide a further benefit in an emergency – particularly a fire emergency – as irrespective of the warning label the fire and rescue services can quickly identify at a distance the type and location of any hazardous materials present. Storing different types of hazardous substances in the same anonymous Cabinet is a hazard in itself so assess the risks carefully and make the right safety choices.

Heavy snowfall increases risk of flood and theft

The heavy snow forecast to affect the whole of the UK at some point this weekend is further bad news for those businesses and homeowners at risk of flood. Snow, despite its picturesque effect on the landscape is rain by another name so when it thaws it can only add to the flood risk on already waterlogged ground. Now is the time to take added precautions to safeguard valuable stock and valuables by placing them out of reach of potential flood waters.
This precaution is doubly true if your business uses hazardous chemicals. It is advisable to consider raising hazardous storage cabinets well off the ground on steel stands available to suit most standard COSHH cabinets. Leakage of toxic substances into the environment can have devastating effects and if you are sited in a high flood risk area the environment agency will look to you for proof that sensible precautions were in place should a leak occur.


Valuables can also be stored in the same way in high security storage cabinets placed on stands, or in waterproof security chests and safes depending on the value and quantity of goods to be stored.
Another consequence of the freezing temperature is a significant increase in vehicle thefts. Criminals literally tour the streets looking for vehicles that have been left unattended on driveways with the engine running to defrost the car or van. This presents a golden opportunity for thieves to either steal the vehicle itself or rifle the contents in seconds for any valuables, laptops, tools and equipment.
Commercial vans and lorries can be fitted with lockable heavy duty steel van boxes and cabinets that bolt to the chassis for storage of expensive tools and equipment but that does not prevent theft of the vehicle if the thief has the opportunity. One tip is to use one key to start the engine to defrost and then use the spare key to lock the doors until you are ready to start your journey.
With a little care you can avoid falling victim to the unforeseen risks that the onset of winter weather can present.

Top Ten Tips for the safe storage of chemical in the home

    1. Always read and follow the safe use, storage and disposal instructions on the product label.
    2. Store harmful household products and pesticides out of reach of children and pets. Store in a locked COSHH cabinet in a utility area or garden store with lots of ventilation.
    3. Store flammable products outside the living space in locked flammable cabinets and far away from places where they could catch fire. Keep flammable products away from portable heaters, electric heaters, central heating boilers and outdoor grills.
    4. Never store pesticides or other household products in cabinets where food is stored, or near food intended for people or animals. Never store pesticides where you keep medicines. Ideally pesticides should be stored in lockable pesticide cabinets.
    5. Always store chemical based products in their original containers so that you can read the label for directions on their use, storage and disposal.

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  1. Never transfer flammable liquids, pesticides or other household products to soft drink bottles, milk jugs or other food containers. Children, or even adults, may mistake them for something to eat or drink.
  2. Never mix different cleaning fluids or pesticides. Chemical reactions can occur creating dangerous gases and in some cases exothermic reactions with the potential to cause fires and explosions.
  3. Always dispose of unwanted chemicals particularly petroleum based products and pesticides responsibly to protect your environment. Do not tip down drains, into drainage dykes, rivers or onto the land.
  4. Look out for new products that are less hazardous and environmentally friendly such as Propylene Glycol antifreeze or use safer alternatives. A combination of vinegar and baking soda is good at clearing blocked waste pipes.
  5. Have emergency numbers for fire services, environmental office and your doctor in a convenient place in case of emergency. Seconds save lives.

 

 

Storage of Flammable Liquids

When dealing with liquids of a flammable nature, it is crucial to ensure that they are stored away correctly.

Not ensuring that flammable liquids are protected could result in a small controllable fire very quickly becoming a raging blaze.

By ensuring you have a flammable cabinet that adheres to COSHH regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), you can minimize the potential risk caused by fire.

There are a number of different types of cabinets suitable for storing flammable liquids, such as paint, away in.

Here are just a few:

Flammable Liquid Storage:
The most obvious choice. Specifically made to house flammable liquids, flammable liquid storage solutions are available in a number of varying sizes – meaning you can a cabinet that is an exact fit.

Paint and Ink Safety Cabinets:
These storage containers are specially made to keep paints and inks protected. Some will have doors that have to be manually closed, whilst others benefit from having a self-closing door system.

Drum Safety Cabinets:
Drum safety cabinets are much larger than the previously mentioned cabinets. Big enough to store drums filled with potentially dangerous chemicals, these cabinets are usually double-walled and manufactured from a much thicker gauge steel. A gap of one and a half inches of air space between the walls and the inclusion a fire baffle and cap ensures that no half-measures are taken as far as safety is concerned.

10 Common Household Chemicals

It is surprising how many dangers lurk in products we use almost every day in the home and at work. Here’s a rundown on the 10 most common hazardous substances that are virtually guaranteed to be in every home in the land.

Antibacterial surface cleaners contain ammonium based or phenolic chemicals that are very irritating to the eyes and skin and will burn your throat so care should be taken particularly if using a spray type product. It’s advisable to wear latex dishwashing gloves to help protect your skin when using these cleaners.Jessica Rohrer painting: household cleaning supplies

Window and Glass liquid cleaners and aerosols may be irritating to the eyes, skin, nose, and throat. If swallowed, they may cause drowsiness, unconsciousness, or death.

All-purpose cleaners commonly contain Ammonia, Ethylene Glycol and sodium hypochlorite cause severe irritation to the skin, eyes, nose, and throat and can be highly poisonous if swallowed. Some of these poisonous chemicals also have an odour attractive to animals and pets.

Oven cleaner is either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide commonly called Lye or caustic soda, is extremely corrosive, and can burn skin and eyes. It is usually fatal if swallowed.

Automatic dishwashing detergents can produce skin irritations or chemical burns, are poisonous if swallowed.

Air fresheners are used in various places throughout the home and contain four basic ingredients formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, p- dichlorobenzene, and aerosol propellants. Air fresheners are usually highly flammable and can cause irritation to eyes, skin, and throat. Solid block type air fresheners usually cause death if eaten by people or pets.

Petrol and Solvents are highly flammable and petrol vapours mixed with air are potentially explosive and highly flammable. Serious lung injury may occur if droplets of petrol are inhaled and drinking petrol is more often fatal. Petrol also causes skin damage and prolonged exposure can affect the nervous system.Household cleaning products ***ALL BRAND NEW, UNOPENED"

Lubrication Oil contains some chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer (carcinogens). If disposed of improperly for example down the drain or onto the land it poses a very serious threat to the environment because it is toxic to fish and birds. Just a pint of motor oil in water can form an oil slick almost 5000 square yards in area. That’s equivalent to a football field! Flammable cabinets are ideal to store oil.

Antifreeze containing Ethylene glycol is very poisonous when swallowed and can be absorbed by the skin. It will cause severe damage to the heart, kidneys and brain and ultimately cause death. It has a sweet smell attractive to animals including pets that could be killed by licking or drinking the fluid. Clean up any spills immediately and wear rubber gloves when handling. Propylene Glycol is a new alternative that is much less toxic.

Oil-based paint contains organic solvents that can be irritating to eyes and skin, and can cause cracking of skin. Inhaling paint fumes can result in headaches, nausea, dizziness, and can make you feel very tired if you breathe in the fumes for too long.

NEVER mix different kinds of cleaners together, especially if one contains ammonia and the other contains chlorine. This can produce a gas called chloramine that can be fatal if inhaled.

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