What is COSHH? Questions about COSHH answered

We’re frequently asked “What is COSHH?”. This article aims to answer basic questions such as “What does COSHH stand for?”. Read on for a COSHH definition, a guide to COSHH symbols and more.

COSHH stands for ‘Control of Substances Hazardous to Health’ and under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, employers need to either prevent or reduce their workers’ exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.


The majority of organisations today use substances that could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people. These hazardous substances can come in many different forms such as:

  • Chemicals
  • Fumes
  • Dusts
  • Vapours
  • Mists
  • Nanotechnology
  • Gases
  • Asphyxiating gases
  • Biological agents

The HSE has a free downloadable guide called ‘Working with substances hazardous to health’ – which is a brief overview of COSHH. This guide explains that hazardous substances make thousands of workers ill by contracting lung diseases such as asthma; cancer and skin diseases such as dermatitis. As a result these diseases cost many millions of pounds to industry, society and individuals. The guide illustrates how you should assess the risk of your own COSHH substances and what control measures you should have in place to reduce employee exposure.

COSHH training is required as it will allow employees to identify, measure and control the exposure to harmful substances, and as a result will safeguard your employees. A COSHH training course should provide you with:

  • An understanding of how and which substances can harm health
  • Knowledge and definitions of exposure limits
  • Skills to understand exposure and to conduct COSHH risk assessments
  • A greater understanding of practical control measures and safe systems of work

COSHH symbols and meanings

The hazardous substances mentioned above also have international symbols to allow you to understand the different hazards within your organisation.

COSHH symbols and meanings

Images sourced from: http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/pictograms.html

If you need help with risk assessments, we provide can provide you with COSHH training, helping your organisation understand how substances can harm health.

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