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
Working With Hazardous Substances | What Employers Need to Know About COSHH
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Training
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.
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.
What's included in our fixed-fee Health & Safety support
Accident and Incident Investigation
An accident in the workplace is every employer’s worst nightmare. We can help to guide your investigation, advise on corrective action and protect your interests in the event of regulatory enforcement.
Can you help us prepare an accident investigation report?
Yes. This can be tricky to get right, especially as once you reach conclusions and set out the actions you have taken, the document is disclosable to the other side in the event of a personal injury claim or prosecution. We’ll help you stick to the facts, keep opinion separate, and make sure the report is presented in a way that protects your best interests and, most importantly, identifies the things that need to be put right to prevent reoccurrence.
We have been written to by the regulator regarding a health and safety incident. Can you help?
Yes. In the event of a serious accident or emergency, we will support your investigation and advise you on your communications with the enforcing authority. We will be there to help mitigate damage, guide you and support you. If you have received a letter from the regulator, we can help you to formulate a response until legal advice is required, in which case (if you have chosen to take it) our Legal Expenses Insurance is activated.
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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
Who you’ll be working with
Willem Van Den Raad
Principal Health & Safety Consultant
Executive Director, Privacy International
WorkNest supports our 280 staff members with Employment Law and Health & Safety and has provided quality management training too.”
Head of Service Delivery, Catalyst Choice
We get a great deal of comfort and satisfaction knowing that we have support as and when we need it, in a decisive and responsive way.”
Group HR Director, Culina Group
We moved our legal support to WorkNest (formerly Law at Work) having previously used a time and line law firm. It was important, though, that an all-inclusive fee structure did not come at the expense of quality. Thankfully we’ve been delighted with the service we’ve received from WorkNest.”
What we recognised in WorkNest is the background that they have. They are able to supply knowledge and experience in a number of disciplines, which enables us to develop our business in a way that’s safe, to do it on time and with a quality to it.”
Director of Human Resources and Health & Safety,
Bluestone National Park Resort
Chief Executive, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT)
As the company started to get larger, we knew we had to protect our employees and our contractors both onsite and in the offices. WorkNest is exactly what we needed to move the company forward.”
Operations Director, Beaverfit
Pineapple have worked with the team at WorkNest (formerly Law at Work) since 2003, and we have built a trusted partnership together. We particularly like WorkNest’s concise and practical advice concerning employment law/HR issues and also appreciate their totally supportive approach in all areas of health and safety.”
Pineapple Dance Studios
I’ve taken WorkNest into every organisation that I’ve worked with. I’ve introduced them to many teams and many colleagues and referred them with absolute pleasure because I genuinely trust in the service that we get.”
People Director, The Works
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