The COSHH Risk Assessment
From the information contained in the Safety Data Sheet, managers must undertake an assessment in relation to the risks associated with the individual product in their particular work situation. A model risk assessment for Jangro Toilet Descaler has been handed out. Like all Jangro model risk assessments this is intended to be a guide only. A true risk assessment for a product needs to be personal to you, written to reflect the products use by you in your working environment.
Each individual aspect of its use must be assessed from its arrival on site through its usage, until it is ultimately disposed of. The areas we cover in our own assessments are:
- Delivery: Where packaging, moving and handling considerations are covered.
- Storage: Temperature, moisture and possible chemical reactions are amongst the issues to be considered here.
- Usage: All the safety issues relating to the product in use are covered here.
- Disposal: The safe way to dispose of products and their empty containers is the final issue to be considered.
When we have assessed the various work process stages, we must then decide whether there is a problem with the substance(s) your company is using, or those to which the employees are incidentally exposed at each stage. This is called a risk assessment.
The basic steps are to:
Firstly identify the hazardous substances present in your workplace and consider the risks these substances present to people’s health.
Then decide what precautions are needed to remove or reduce them to acceptable levels. The COSHH Regulations require you to prevent exposure to substances hazardous to health, if it is reasonably practicable to do so. Where the substance cannot be removed because it is needed for the job then the danger must be reduced through the use of Personal Protective Equipment etc.
Having established the controls, the Regulations require employees to make proper use of those controls and to report any defects.
To make all this happen it is therefore vital to share the results of the assessment with staff.
How do we share the information with staff? Well, the way in which we suggest the information should be shared is by providing all buildings with hard copies of the assessments within a file. We would also suggest that the Safety Data Sheets are included for reference and as an additional safety measure.
The following points should be considered when producing and maintaining the COSHH risk assessment file:
- It should be a comprehensive record and therefore all the products in use should be included.
- It is a vital document and therefore its completion should be undertaken by a competent person.
- It is essential that the document is complete and up to date.The best way to achieve this is by having a master copy, which can be copied and distributed internally.
- This is a working document, not just a record that your files. A copy is therefore needed on site where it can be consulted as required.
- Those who really need the information it holds are those actually doing the cleaning. It is management’s responsibility to give them guidance on the information it contains.
- Risk assessments are living documents which change and should be regularly reviewed and updated.
So, having worked with the safety data sheet for each product to produce a risk assessment, is that the job done? Not quite. It is pointless to do this and not share it with those who are actually using the products. So the next thing to do is ensure that all staff familiarise themselves with the COSHH risk assessments for all of the products they use.
- Always read the labels on products carefully before you use them. Labels will tell you all you need to know about how to use the product effectively and safely.
- Never place cleaning chemicals into either unmarked or wrongly marked containers. If not accurately labelled, products can be mistaken for many things including drinks with disastrous results.
- Never mix chemicals. You are never sure what the outcome will be so don’t do it.
- When diluting chemicals add the chemical to water and not the other way round. This will reduce the risk of accident if there is a reaction during the mixing.
- Ensure tops are securely replaced once the product has been used in order to avoid spillages.If you do spill a product, wipe it up straight away. This will ensure that nobody is injured by coming into contact with the chemical.
- If you are using chemicals which have one of the warning symbols on the label, try where possible to use the product through a dispenser. This will ensure that you keep away from the product in use.
- At all times treat cleaning chemicals with respect and if you are unsure about any aspect of the product’s use, ask you manager or supervisor. Failing that study the assessment and you should find the answer you are looking for.
- All operatives should be encouraged to make suggestions on improving safety. Remember, the assessment is one person’s opinion on the levels of risk, you may think of something that has been missed!
- Remember risk assessments are provided to improve your safety whilst carrying out your duties – make sure you understand them and take them seriously.
Click the link below for our free COSHH PowerPoint download:
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