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Hazardous Substances


What is COSHH? (UK control of hazardous substances)


The COSHH regulations are about the handling of chemicals in the workplace in the UK, it essence the controls will be similar from nation to nation depending on how hazardous substances have effected the cause of health and safety in the workplace.  Often the development of a countries legislation around hazardous substances will have been influenced by major events occurring to its own people. 


The UK COSHH regulations are about protecting the employee and therefore, by default will also protect the employer.


Hazardous substances used in the workplace will and often have caused harm to the health of employees and others not directly associated with the activities, where exposure has not been properly controlled.  Exposure may cause short or long-term health problems.  It can be many years before symptoms become apparent, and even more difficult to relate them back to an individual's historical work activities.  It never ceases to amaze me, the macho attitude builders have toward tasks such as cutting stone, and it's often a case of spot the face-mask.  In 10-years  time, it may well be a case of spot the man with serious lung problems.


The COSHH Regulations themselves cover a surprisingly large spectrum of substances, and not all are man-made and many are the result of processes applied to inert materials (i.e. drilling operations). A few common examples are listed below.


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Oils and greases.

Glues and adhesives.

Paints and varnishes.

Petrol and diesel.

Cleaning materials.

Sand and cement.

Substances generated during work activities eg fumes from soldering and welding or dust from grinding.

Naturally occurring substances (eg grain dust).

Sewage and effluent.

Pigeon excrement.

and many, many other substances.


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