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Chemical and biological hazards

From natural substances like grain and flour to those generated by work such as wood dust and welding fumes, hazardous substances can be found in many different workplaces. Even low-risk office environments will use chemical-containing cleaning products, and of course no workplace is immune from biological agents such as coronavirus.

As an employer, you have a legal duty to minimise these risks through risk assessments, monitoring and training.

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Control substances hazardous to health

Exposure to chemical and biological hazards can cause serious harm. Short-term effects include chemical burns and poisoning, while prolonged exposure can lead to asthma, lung diseases and even cancer. Of course, diseases such as coronavirus and Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal.

Professional support can help you to comply with a long list of regulations and ensure you are taking all necessary steps to keep people safe.

  • Get an expert review of your management of chemicals and biological agents with an on-site health and safety audit (General Risk Assessment)
  • Document risk assessments for chemical hazards with access to a large number of example COSHH assessments and templates
  • Upload data sheets and risk assessments and record monitoring activities and actions using our smart health and safety software, SafetyNest
  • Upskill employees and managers with eLearning training in COSHH awareness, plus bespoke face-to-face courses on specific topics as required
  • Get answers to all your chemical safety and infection control queries and respond to safety incidents with 24/7 consultant support

Related resources


Working With Hazardous Substances | What Employers Need to Know About COSHH

H&S Training

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Training

Free download

COSHH Risk Assessment

Become COSHH compliant with our consultant support

Our General Risk Assessment report will include a review of your current management of chemicals, including physical management and written records of assessments. We will check whether you have an up-to-date list of substances in use, safety data sheets for these substances, and review whether suitable training has been provided to staff.

We will also assess what biological agents may be considered a workplace hazard. For example, your consultant will ask about your Legionella risk and determine whether a full Legionella risk assessment by a specialist is needed. They will also analyse your work activities for potential biological hazards, such as working close to water sources and agricultural works such as grounds keeping.

After the assessment, your consultant will identify areas for priority action and support you in remedying any areas of non-compliance.

Popular FAQs

Common chemical and biological queries and questions about our service, answered by our Health & Safety specialists.

What laws govern chemical hazards in the workplace?

While not an exhaustive list, the main legislation relating to the management of chemical hazards in the workplace include the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015, the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002, the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 and the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005.

Do I need to have Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) for my work?

This will depend on the nature and quantity of the substances in use and should be considered as part of the COSHH assessment. Many substances have Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) and LEV is often an important control measure in reducing employees’ exposure to below this level.

I have safety data sheets for my substances, do I need a COSHH assessment as well?

Yes, you will need to consider how you use the substance (quantity, state, ventilation in the area, etc.) as well as its hazardous properties in order to complete a suitable assessment.

Do I need to keep cleaning chemicals in a locked cupboard?

This will depend on who is in the area. If vulnerable people such as children are likely to be present, then it would be sensible to keep all hazardous substances in a locked container.

Is there software for managing chemicals in the workplace?

Our award-winning Health & Safety Software can take the hassle out of managing your chemical hazards by allowing you to upload data sheets and risk assessments and reminding you when these are due. It also allows you to record the monitoring activities conducted by supervisors, as well as any actions needed to improve adherence to the controls listed in your assessments.

What are biological hazards?

Biological hazards are hazards that can cause infections and diseases. Common examples include Legionella, animal droppings, hazardous plants, bodily fluids, discarded injection needles from use of medication or drugs, and coronavirus.

Do I need to have a Legionella assessment for my site?

Some form of Legionella assessment will always be necessary but the scope of it will be dependent on the activities being undertaken and the state of the water supply system. Your consultant will advise on this as part of the General Risk Assessment.

My staff clean toilets where used needles can often be found. What do I need to do?

A risk assessment will need to be complete for this hazard. Typical controls will include training for staff on handling needles safely, disposal kits and provision of needle bins where deemed to be appropriate.

Do my staff need to be inoculated against any diseases?

This will depend on the nature and scope of the work undertaken, and the need for inoculations should be considered as part of your risk assessment. Where there is a likely risk of infection from blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis A and B, inoculation should be considered. Your consultant can advise on this further as needed.

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Why choose us?

Experts in Health & Safety support

If you’re not confident in your current practices, or don’t have professional support in place, our network of qualified Health & Safety Consultants can help you to build a safe and compliant working environment through expert support tailored to your organisation.

  • Approved by a Primary Authority
  • Dedicated specialists with recognised qualifications
  • Genuine hands-on experience of managing risk
  • Unlimited 24/7 advice, award-winning software and policy support
  • The confidence to act as one of your competent persons

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