Hazardous substances are used in many workplaces and take many different forms. Solids, liquids, gases, mists and fumes can be present in the workplace. Exposure to hazardous substances can affect the body in many different ways. Skin contact, inhalation and ingestion can cause damage. In legislation, hazardous substances can be defined in a number of ways. In the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) for example they are those substances classified as toxic, very toxic, corrosive harmful or irritant. Biological agents and dusts in substantial concentrations are also classified as hazardous substances.
Hazardous substances can cause short and long term health problems. They can cause serious ill health including cancer, dermatitis and asthma. Employers must control exposure to hazardous substances to preserve the health of their employees.
Anyone who works with or is exposed to hazardous substances is at risk. Those exposed to more hazardous substances for long periods of time are more at risk than those exposed for short periods or to less hazardous substances
The aim should be to prevent exposure to hazardous substances and where exposure cannot be avoided, then adequate controls should be put in place.
Examples of those who could be regularly exposed to hazardous substances include:
All employers have statutory and common-law obligations in relation to the health and safety of their employees and premises.
There are elements of the following legislation that affect hazardous substances:
Substances hazardous to health are defined under COSHH as those that are: Very Toxic, Toxic, Corrosive, Harmful and Irritant.
On 6 April 2005, the regulations were amended, to give a new focus on good practice and help employers meet their duties under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
You must assess the risks associated with the hazardous substances present in your workplace. Adequate control of exposure requires employers to:
Eight principles of good practice: