3: Implement COSHH methods that are proportionate to the health risk(s).
Choosing a Method of Control
The third principle of COSHH concerns how to go about choosing an appropriate control method. Your chosen control methods need to reflect both the severity of the potential health effects and the probability of exposure. Furthermore, you need to carefully consider the following points when choosing the appropriate method of control:
- The frequency and duration of exposure
- The nature and severity of hazard
- The quantity of exposure
- The likelihood of exposure
What if I Fail to Control Exposure?
When designing your control methods, you should think about the potential consequences of failing to adequately control exposure. What is the worst case scenario? Could it have a long-term impact on a person’s health? How about your business? The answers to these questions will have a bearing on the design of your control measures.
Solutions for Low-Risk Exposure
It may be easier and cheaper than you may think to implement an appropriate control measure for exposure to low-risk hazards. In fact, some control measures may simply require a change to the existing process. Examples might include:
- Putting lids on tanks that are out of use
- Replacing lids on bins containing hazardous materials
- Shutting doors
- Monitoring temperatures
You may use the solutions when there is relatively low potential for harm; examples of this may include skin irritation and less serious illnesses that carry no long-term health implications. Furthermore, you may use these less radical solutions to complement more comprehensive control measures. However, you need to implement more radical control measures in situations when exposure could cause more serious health effects.
Solutions for High-Risk Exposure
In the COSHH regulations, the following substances are deemed ‘high-risk’.
- Carcinogens – cancer
- Respiratory sensitisers – asthma
Allergic dermatitis is a ‘high-risk’ skin disease. Various substances can cause this. Additionally, when information is lacking about a particular substance, it may be impossible to determine what a ‘safe’ level of exposure is. Examples of such substances include: pharmaceuticals in the early stages of development, biological agents and new or unidentified substances. When there is a possibility of exposure to these substances, you need to minimise exposure going forward. Although these steps often incur a higher cost and longer implementation period, it is important to avoid cutting corners. However due to the lead time of implementation, you will need to develop a plan of action to manage the problem over the short term.
Exposure benchmarks are in place for a number of substances. Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) are used as a consistent standard in the UK. These benchmarks help managers and staff members to understand how to set the control measures. In situations when exposure is above the WEL, control measures must work properly and be well-maintained. These benchmarks, which are evidence based, can be used to indicate the protection afforded by the control measures. ‘Adequate control’ is not enough in situations when exposure levels are just below the limit for high-risk substances. ‘Adequate control’ also does not stand up when there is a uncertainty over the WEL standards.
Where to Get Help
In such situations, the HSE COSHH Essentials (see www.hse.gov.uk) can help you to assess exposure. Additionally, you can seek guidance relating to specific control measures from relevant trade associations or specialist advisers (e.g. occupational hygienists).
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) can be used if more convenient for workers. This is providing that the equipment reduces exposure more than is absolutely necessary. However, it should always be noted that PPE is the last resort in terms of control.
It is vital to conduct regular, thorough reviews of all control measures by a competent professional. You need to follow the latest industry guidelines to safeguard your employees. are protected by Advancements in technology may help you to achieve continued effectiveness.
Get in touch with Workplace Exposure. Either give us a call on 0800 689 4386, or fill in our enquiry form to discuss your monitoring or consultancy requirements.
We’ll then provide you with a no obligation proposal, we can often give an initial idea of fees whilst we discuss your needs.
Once you’ve accepted our proposal we can then schedule the work.
Following our site visit we’ll provide you with a comprehensive report giving you advice, recommendations and control measures where appropriate.
Implement the outcomes for compliance and a happier healthier workplace.