The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) were initially introduced in October 2002 under both the European Communities Act 1972 and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. These re-enacted with amendments the Control of Substances Hazardous to Work Regulations 1999. It had become obvious there was a need for regulations surrounding how hazardous substances were handled in the workplace, with the onus on both employers and employees to take care of exposure during all aspects of work and future proofing/planning prior to work commencing, and these updated regulations implemented several EU directives.
These regulations are complementary to CHIPS and were updated further in 2008 to introduce a further level of control mechanism on dangerous chemicals in accordance with the EU REACH regulations.
One aspect of these regulations is the import and supply of prohibited chemicals including:
- The salts of any of these, and any substance containing any of those compounds in a total concentration equal to or greater than 0.1% by mass
- Matches made with white phosphorus
- Any of the substances above whose import is prohibited
- Benzene and any substance containing benzene in a concentration equal to or greater than 0.1% by mass, but excluding:
- Motor fuels covered by Council Directive 85/210/EEC
- Waste covered by Council Directive 75/442/EEC
Other chemicals are prohibited for specified purposes:
- Sand (or any other substance) using free silica
- Carbon disulphide
- Chloroform (CAS No. 67-66-3)
- Carbon tetrachloride (CAS No. 56-23-5)
- 1,1,2-Trichloroethane (CAS No. 79-00-5)
- 1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane (CAS No. 79-34-5)
- 1,1,1,2-Tetrachloroethane (CAS No. 630-20-6)
- Pentachloroethane (CAS No. 76-01-7)
- Vinylidene chloride (CAS No. 75-35-4)
- 1,1,1-Trichloroethane (CAS No. 71-55-6)
- Oils other than white oil, or oil of entirely animal or vegetable, or mixed animal-vegetable, origin
- Ground or powdered flint or quartz other than natural sand
- Dust or powder of a refractory material containing not less than 80% of silica other than natural sand
- White phosphorus
- Hydrogen cyanide
and any substance containing one or more of those substances in a concentration equal to or greater than 0.1% by mass, other than:
- Medicinal products;
- Cosmetic products.
- Containing compounds of silicon calculated as silica to the extent of more than 3% by weight of dry material, other than natural sand, zirconium silicate, calcined china clay, calcined aluminous fireclay, sillimanite, calcined or fused alumina, olivine; or
- Composed of, or containing, dust or other matter deposited from a fettling or blasting process
Benzene and any substance containing benzene in a concentration equal to or greater than 0.1% by mass, but excluding:
- Motor fuels covered by Council Directive 85/210/EEC;
- Waste covered by Council Directive 75/442/EEC.
High Profile Cases
A company based in Bristol were fined after employees suffered over the space of 4 years with allergic contact dermatitis after exposure to hazardous chemicals involved in photography. This included employees reporting with cracked, weeping and split skin and swollen fingers/hands to the extent that one such employee could not even do the buttons up on his shirt.
- Fine: £10,000
- Costs: £30,000
In 2016, TATA Chemicals Ltd were fined (jointly with an industrial contractors) for breaches of COSHH and the Confined Spaces Regulations. Safety failings were identified on two separate occasions; the first leading to an employee being engulfed in hot caustic lime during the course of his work at the TCEL plant in Lostock. The second case occurred when an employee fell through a walkway eight feet off the ground due to corroded grating which failed when he walked upon it.
- Fine: £349,850
- Costs: £58,392
Capper Industrial Contractors fines
- Fine: £10,000
- Costs: £30,000
In 2006, Photo-Me International were fined what was at the time believed to be the largest fine incurred under breaches of COSHH by ignoring serious cases of contact eczema and serious burns over a number of years, after employees were found to be mixing the chemicals needed to maintain the company’s automatic photo booths at their home premises, in in-store toilets and even in their cars when needed. The gloves supplied were not adequate in length and little training was given.
- Fine: £100,000
- Costs: £30,000
- COSHH was introduced by Nick Brown, a Labour Party politician who currently stands as the Shadow Chief Whip of the House of Commons.
- There are exceptional circumstances that COSHH will not cover, including those covered by the following 3 regulations:
- Coal Mines (Respirable Dust) Regulations 1975
- Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002
- Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
- Certain employers may also be eligible for an exemption certificate as long as HSE are satisfied that workers’ health and safety are not compromised. Examples include armed forces visiting from abroad and companies who work in the interest of national UK security.
- There are 9 different international COSHH symbols used in labelling to indicate the nature of the substance, including Oxidising, Corrosive and Toxic.
- There are a number of training courses available surrounding COSHH regulations, including those aimed at increasing awareness, assessments and training on Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems (LEV’S). To find out more, please see our COSHH training courses section.