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Regulations and legislation for hazardous substances

Hazardous substances are commonly used in the workplace but what are the regulations and legislation that you should be following to make sure that any risk to your workers are reduced or dealt with.

When it comes to hazardous substances there are 3 main pieces of legislation that you should be aware of. These are as follows:

  • Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH)
  • Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR)
  • The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

COSHH:

Work with harmful materials. Shadow DOF. Developed from RAW; retouched with special care and attention; Small amount of grain added for best final impression.

COSHH is the law that requires an employer to control substances that could be hazardous to health, and this includes nano-materials. Here are a list of bullet points you can work through to help with reducing risks involved with using hazardous substances:

  • finding out what the health hazards are
  • deciding how to prevent harm to health (risk assessment)
  • providing control measures to reduce harm to health
  • making sure they are used
  • keeping all control measures in good working order
  • providing information, instruction and training for employees and others
  • providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases
  • planning for emergencies.

Most businesses will use substances or materials made from several substances that could cause harm to employees, customers, or the public. Not all hazardous substances are marked and obvious so make sure to check any new products you might use, and risk assess the accordingly.

Further information can be found on HSE’s COSHH website.

DSEAR:

Metallurgical plant, hot metal casting

DSEAR requires an employer to control the risks of fire and explosions.

Dangerous substances can put those who come into contact with that environment at great risk. This could be customers, employees, or the public. DSEAR puts the responsibility on the employer or those who are self-employed to make sure that all risks to those who could be harmed are suitably controlled.

Dangerous substances include anything used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire or explosion or corrosion of metal. They can be found in nearly all workplaces and include such things as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and sanding operations, dusts from foodstuffs, pressurised gases, and substances corrosive to metal.

Employers must:

  • find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the risks are
  • put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
  • put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances
  • prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
  • make sure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances
  • identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas

The Control of Asbestos Regulations:

Man clearing asbestos from old roof / Hazardous substances

The control of asbestos regulations came into place on April 6 2012, and were released to update the previous regulations to take into account the European Commission’s view that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to asbestos (Directive 2009/148/EC).

Asbestos is responsible for almost 4000 deaths per year in the UK. It was used in a range of building but was commonly used in commercial buildings that were constructed before the year 2000.

The legislation now states that the “duty holder”(who is responsible for the building, so may be the owner or the person in charge of maintenance) must conduct an assessment as to whether the building contains asbestos. If asbestos is present but in good condition and undisturbed it can be left but will need to be closely monitored to avoid it becoming an issue. If asbestos is found within the property and has been disturbed, then you will need to have it removed. Anyone carrying out the work should be properly trained in handling the material and should be aware of the risks involved.

Summary:

COSHH, DSEAR and the control of asbestos are all important when it comes to keeping your workforce safe from hazardous substances and other laws such as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out the responsibility for employers to protect their workers and the public from the effects of exposure to hazardous substances.