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To comply with COSHH, the stages of a COSHH risk assessment follow seven key stages: 

1. Assess the risk 

2. Record and Review 

3. Prevent and Control 

4. Ensure control measures are used and maintained 

5. Monitor Exposure 

6. Monitor health checks 

7. Staff training and supervision 

Now let’s look at the stages in a little more detail. Stage 1. Assessing the Risk. 

You need to decide who in the business is going to carry out the assessment and ensure they are competent to do it correctly. This person needs to identify every substance in the workplace and not miss any out. They then need to consider: What the substance is How much is being used Who could be exposed and how often Whether it can be absorbed through the skin, ingested, or inhaled Does it affect the eyes, skin or respiratory system? Is there any environmental risk? Then add this information to the current datasheet, including precautions being taken. If a new substance, a new datasheet needs to be obtained. Once we know what we are dealing with, it needs to be decided what action needs to be taken and what choices there are to eliminate or reduce the risk. If it is decided that no action is required then this still needs to be recorded. 

Stage 2, Record and Review. 

 All findings are recorded and maintained in writing so they can be referred to at a later date or in the event of a problem or inspection. You also need to document when the reviews need to happen and by whom. In general, the documents are reviewed when the risk is assessed as no longer valid, maybe where the substance or work practice are no longer used or when there has been a significant change in the work practices. All reports must state when the net review is planned. 

Stage 3. Prevent and Control. 

The COSHH regulations require you to prevent exposure to a substance hazardous to health if it is “reasonably practicable”. This can be to change a workplace practice, replace a chemical for a safer one or use it in a safer form, like a pelleted substance rather than a powder. If prevention is not possible then control measures need to be considered. These could be to enclose the process by keeping employees away from the substance; using dust or vapour extraction; improving ventilation; reducing staff working with the substance and finally introducing control measures to reduce the risk of the substance causing harm. COSHH defines “under control” as reducing the exposure limits to that which a worker could be exposed to daily without causing any harm. Workplace Exposure Limits or WEL’s cover this and there is more documentation in the student download area. 

Stage 4. Ensure control measures are used and maintained. 

COSHH requires all staff to use control measures correctly and report any problems or defects immediately. The employer must take every step to ensure the staff can do so. This is why training is very important to ensure that all staff can identify and report problems. Control measures must be maintained correctly and regular checks carried out and reported correctly. 

Stage 5. Monitor Exposure. 

COSHH requires measurement of exposure to hazardous substances where there could be a risk to health, the workplace exposure limits might be exceeded and where the control measure may not be working correctly. This monitoring may include monitoring air samples or product samples. All information must be recorded and kept. Records in some cases have to be kept for up to 40 years. 

Stage 6. Monitor health checks. 

A regular review of the health of employees needs to be taken and recorded of employees exposed to a health risk. This will identify early any health problems and therefore action can be taken to prevent this from getting worse and avoid others being put at risk. It is also an employer’s duty under the health and safety at work act to ensure that the health of workers is kept safe in respect of noise, hazardous substances, asbestos and leads to name a few. 

7. Staff training and supervision. 

COSHH requires employers to provide suitable training and supervision about substances, precautions, control measures, PPE and emergency procedures. Training is vital to ensure that exposure is reduced. Control measures are no good is staff do not know how to use them.