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The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) aims to protect people from the harmful health effects of substances used at work. It requires employers to carry out a risk assessments and as a result, take steps to either prevent exposure or control the risks to their employees (and others who may be affected) from such substances.

In a few cases, where risks are high or difficult to control, it imposes restrictions on the supply or use of the substances. Many of these supply and use restrictions stem from the EC's Marketing and Use Directive (76/769/EEC). COSHH is supported by an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) which gives practical advice on compliance.

In a recent consultative document the HSC proposed:

  1. restriction of the supply and use of high chromium VI cement;

  2. extension to all merchant ships of the existing disapplication of COSHH and of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW) to seagoing merchant ships; and

  3. clarification of the wording of regulation 9(1) of COSHH (and the equivalent regulation 8(1) in CLAW) in respect of the scope of the duty to maintain exposure control measures, together with some related changes to the COSHH and CLAW ACOPs.

The above changes would be introduced by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (COSHH 2004). These Regulations will also introduce a new occupational exposure limit framework for hazardous substances

From 6 April 2005, the focus on good practice changed under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).

The existing requirements to follow good practice were clarified and brought together with the introduction of eight principles.

These apply regardless of whether a substance has an Occupational Exposure Limit or not:

  • Design and operate all processes and activities to minimise emission releases and the spread of substances hazardous to health.

  • Take into account all relevant routes of exposure including: - inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion when developing control measures.

  • Control exposures by measures proportionate to the health risk.

  • Choose the most effective and reliable control options which minimise the escape and spread of substances hazardous to health.

  • Where adequate control of exposure cannot be achieved by other means, provide, in combination with other control measures, suitable personal protective equipment.

  • Check and review regularly all elements of control measures for their continuing effectiveness.

  • Inform and train all employees on the hazards and risks from the substances with which they work and the use of control measures developed to minimise the risks.

  • Ensure that the introduction of control measures does not increase the overall risk to health and safety.

A single type of limit has also been introduced, Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) now replace Maximum Exposure Limits (MELs) and Occupational Exposure Standards (OESs). The OESs for around 100 substances have been deleted as these substances are now either, banned, scarcely used or there is evidence to suggest adverse health effects close to the old limit value.

2 new limits are being introduced for Refractory Ceramic Fibres and Subtilisins.

As the numerical values of the other limits being transferred to the new system are unchanged, suppliers may exhaust stocks of safety data sheets that refer to MELs and OESs before producing new ones that refer to WELs. Similarly, COSHH assessments can be updated as part of duty holders periodic reviews.

As of 6 April, adequate control of exposure will require employers to: 

  1. apply the eight principles of good practice for the control of substances hazardous to health;

  2. ensure that the WEL is not exceeded; and

  3. ensure that exposure to substances that can cause occupational asthma; cancer; or damage to genes that can be passed from one generation to another; is reduced as low as is reasonably practicable.

For more information on the implications to you company, call 0845 6039053

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