Coshh introduction

Coshh introduction

Download Risk Assessment forms

All risk assessment forms should be available for inspection if requested by a member of the Institute Safety committee.

Definition of 'Risk' and 'Hazard' under COSHH

When considering the dangers of substances hazardous to health we use the terms hazard and risk in particular ways.

The hazard of a substance is the intrinsic property of that substance to cause harm: its toxic, carcinogenic, flammable, explosive properties etc.

In relation to exposure to a substance hazardous to health, risk means the likelihood that this potential for harm will be expressed under the conditions of use, and the extent of that harm. These terms are clearly not synonymous, and for this reason a risk assessment is much more than the collection of hazard data: a common misunderstanding.

COSHH 2002 requires certain factors to be taken into consideration when compiling a risk assessment.

These are:- 

  1.  The hazardous properties of the substances [ie, the intrinsic property of that substance to cause harm. This is different from the 'risk' which is the likelihood of that hazard causing harm in the context of its use, and by what means that harm will be expressed. The Risk assessment is to establish how the harm could be expressed, and what measures are needed to prevent it being expressed, hence the following questions] 
  2.  How it will be used
  3. The amount of the substance to be used
  4. Information on health effects provided by the supplier (eg, the material safety data sheet)
  5. The level, type and duration of exposure (note particularly if the initial exposure is to a higher quantity of the substance prior to extracting a smaller quantity for use)
  6. Activities such as maintenance where there is the potential for a high level of exposure
  7. Any relevant occupational exposure standard
  8. The results of monitoring of exposures
  9. The risks presented by combinations of exposures to substances

Remember, however, that not all work needs to be assessed in such detail. Only that which poses a realistic foreseeable risk to people needs to be assessed. If the quantities of a substance that is subject to COSHH are tiny (i.e., from the first moment of collecting the chemical), the hazard small and therefore the risk negligible, the assessment need only record the substances involved, that they will be used in accordance with the supplier's Material Safety Data Sheet and the conclusion that because the substances pose little or no risk, no further detailed risk assessment is warranted.

The Risk Assessment exercise in any research context is the key link to ensuring that we comply with legislation for safety at work. Written evidence is the key factor in ensuring that there is a consistency of standard across the building and that all personnel are aware of, and respond correctly to potential hazards.

The aim of risk assessment is to identify all significant direct and indirect risk inherent in the work of the building, and ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to control the risk to ensure that our efforts are targeted towards dealing with those areas and activities where the greatest potential for harm exists