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If you run a small business or are self-employed, you need this information to make sure you are protecting your employees. If you run a medium-sized or large business, where decisions about controlling hazardous substances are more complex, you will also need professional advice. COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. You can prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances by:
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- 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 use substances, or products that are mixtures of substances. Some processes create substances. These could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people. Sometimes substances are easily recognised as harmful. Common substances such as paint, bleach or dust from natural materials may also be harmful. For more detailed information hse.gov.uk/coshh/
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Your aim in running your business is to make a profit. You know what you do, and how you are doing it. You know what ‘processes’ and ‘tasks’ are involved. You know the short cuts. Ensuring your workers remain healthy may also lead to healthy profits.
Many other products or substances used at work can be harmful, such as paint,ink, glue, lubricant, detergent and beauty products. Ill health caused by these substances used at work is preventable. Many substances can harm health but, used properly, they almost never do. Find out the dangers in your business – ask your supplier, your trade association, and check for your trade on HSE’s website: www.hse.gov.uk. Substances can also have dangerous properties. They may be flammable, for example solvent-based products may give off flammable vapour. Clouds of dust from everyday materials, such as wood dust or flour, can explode if ignited. This leaflet does not deal with flammability or explosion hazards (see ‘Find out more’).
Know your products and download our COSHH sheets. If you are unsure about any aspect of COSHH, please contact the office for our expert advice.