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What regulations are there for handling of hazardous substances?

 25/11/2015    Last Modified: 04/02/2016

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

What is it?

CoSHH applies to employers and the self-employed in order to reduce the risks of exposure to harmful substances. You are responsible for taking effective measures to control exposure and protect health. These measures can also improve production or cut waste.

What does it do?

CoSHH requires that all substances used or produced in conjunction with a business are assessed as to their potential harm, whether they can be replaced by a less harmful alternative, who may be affected by them and how. Details of the harm the substances can cause, control measures and other emergency information must be kept at the point of use and storage with a spare copy in a related area e.g. the office, for ease of access in the case of an emergency.

What should I do?

Identify all substances you use and determine whether they may be harmful. Initial checks on substance will reveal CHIP symbols and codes. CHIP is the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009 and requires suppliers to give information about the substances they supply and transport (examples of symbols used opposite). These substances are harmful and CoSHH will apply to them. Note: Other, non-manufactured substances may also be subject to CoSHH, for example, wood dust or Plane farina (the hairs on the leaves of a Plane tree).

Consider if a safer alternative substance is available and appropriate.

What next?

Once you are certain that you need to use this substance, information about it must be obtained. Significant information is contained in the data sheets that suppliers and manufacturers are obliged to produce. These can be complex documents but come in a standard format. Important sections are part 15 of the sheet, which tells you what the dangers are and parts 4 to 8, which tell you about emergencies, storage and handling.

Control Measures

Control measures are always a combination of measures, equipment and ways of working to reduce exposure. The right combination is crucial. No measure, however practical, can work unless it is used properly. So any ‘standard operating procedure’ should combine the right equipment with the right way of working. This means instructing, training and supervising the workers doing the tasks. If PPE is supplied as part of the control measures make sure it is the right PPE, its use is understood and that it fits properly. Find out more about PPE regulations.


Ensure that relevant parts of the data sheets are supplied and explained to those using or coming into contact with the substances identified. This generally means parts 4-8 and 15, as above. Ideally these parts should be laminated and held in the work vehicle when substances are being used on site.

Monitoring and Review

Ensure that the provisions above are being followed and record your findings. Review your list of qualifying substances regularly. If your operation is complex in nature or uses large amounts of harmful products specialist advice may be required.

Further information:

HSE, PPE, CHIP, CoSHH, hazardous substances