Discover the top 5 BIG COSHH mistakes that could end your business...

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BIG MISTAKE 1 - A risk assessment system destined for failure

It's all too easy to focus on delivering a compliant risk assessment that ticks the boxes of legislation (you think) and to end up losing sight of what risk assessment is about - creating a process that makes the user of a hazardous substance safe, as far as is reasonable. Are you making any of these mistakes? If you are, change them now!

“I believe that chemical safety represents a hidden danger in all our lives. Whether you use hazardous substances or it is your responsibility to protect your workforce, chemicals are a risk to you. I will continue to fight to make as many as I can aware of the danger to your health, career and profits.

Dale Allen

Award Winning Author of
The Book On Chemical Safety

BIG MISTAKE 2 - Your risk assessments don't cover all the risks

This one really rattles my cage! You produce a nice looking risk assessment to train John on how to empty the oil on the vehicle safely, and then John gets his legs run over by a car in the garage because he was lying down and wasn't seen. It's SO VERY important that the risk assessor has actually assessed your place of work with their own eyes so that all hazards are considered. It's also extremely important that all your COSHH assessments contain all hazards of carrying out the task, not just the substance based hazards. In this real-life example, John should have been told about the hazard of moving vehicles in the garage and the importance of putting up a barrier or warning sign when he is working under a car. This was missed because the risk assessment used was a chemical based risk assessment, which is wholely inadequate.

BIG MISTAKE 4 - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a LAST RESORT!

Often Personal Protective Equipment is seen as a safety barrier for protecting a person, as a first line of defence. This is very poor strategy for risk assessing. You should always look to remove the substance hazards at source before the person comes into contact with a substance, by other means, before applying PPE as a safety control. Here are some safety control topics to consider before applying PPE controls:

  • Protection of workers
  • Compliance with regulations and any company standards
  • Technical feasibility

Of the above, the most likely control strategies to consider before applying PPE are:

  • Engineering controls
  • Material substitution
  • Process change
  • Revised work practices
  • Equipment change
  • Administrative controls
  • Use of Personal Protective Equipment

BIG MISTAKE 5 - If you aren't sure then YOU DON'T KNOW!

  • Your risk assessments don't exist
  • You are using Safety Data Sheets as risk assessments and calling them "COSHH sheets" or something similar
  • Your risk assessments have been created by someone who has never personally visited your site to assess the risk
  • Your risk assessment doesn't describe the task and how to carry it out safely, just lots of chemical mumbo-jumbo
  • Your risk assessments are chemical based rather than task based which also includes the chemical information
  • Your risk assessments don't include environmental conditions, such as hot surfaces, slippery surfaces...
  • You are not including GHS / CHIP hazard signs, warning and safety signs for visual awareness
  • Your risk assessments are too complicated and bore your workforce to sleep
  • You are not including the risk before and risk after you have completed your risk assessment process
  • Your workforce don't know where your risk assessments and their corresponding Safety Data Sheets are located
  • Your risk assessments are simply a paper exercise and don't get used in the training process of your workforce
  • Your Safety Data Sheets are not available at short notice, up-to-date, for the emergency services should they visit your site

BIG MISTAKE 3 - Your risk assessments are boring and inadequate for humans

I see it with my new customers time and time again. They have risk assessments that run page after page of boring, repetitive and heavily text laden safety information. In some cases the information is so complex that the creator of the risk assessment, when quizzed, doesn't really understand it. A risk assessment should be clear, descriptive and colourful, especially if it contains significant risks. Take a look at some of the these signs below and ask yourself "Do my COSHH assessments contain these?". The reason these are so important is because, in a page of text, the reader can immediately identify significant risks and safety controls. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE idiot-proof your risk assessments where possible.

I found it a real challenge to fit my TOP 5 BIG COSHH mistakes into just 5 mistakes. That's why I've put so many bullet points into BIG MISTAKE 1. As this is my final big mistake, I have reserved it for one of my most important points. If you are not sure about something, whether it is related to the substance, the environment your workforce work in, PPE usage, exposure controls, emergency procedures, etc. you must absolutely NOT guess or give inaccurate information. ALWAYS seek advice from someone who knows, it may cost you for the advice but it will save you a lot of money in the long run in avoiding an incident and legal action because you will be found out. In relation to a substance, you should always contact the manufacturer if you need additional information and if they cannot or will not provide it to you, you should consider changing the product or supplier.

If you have any immediate concerns, please fill out my form at the top of this page to receive a free 20 minute consultation with one of my COSHH safety experts.

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