The meaning and importance of COSHH?

COSHH might sound like just another Government regulation that you’re supposed to adhere to, but do you actually know what it means and why it’s important? If you work in certain industries it’s imperative to the health and safety of your workers that you do…

So what does COSHH mean and why is it important? COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health and is concerned with ensuring the health and safety of workers that are exposed to hazardous materials in the workplace. COSHH regulations minimise exposure risks and ensures that proper policies and procedures are implemented.

Read on to learn more about COSHH and why it’s important.

What Does COSHH Stand For?

COSHH stands for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. It is a set of regulations that protect workers from ill health as a result of working with hazardous substances such as acid, construction materials and byproducts, and cleaning products. COSHH covers any form of hazardous materials including liquids, solids, fumes, dust, vapours, fibres, nano-particles, mists, gases, bacteria and viruses, meaning that the regulations span across an array of industries and job roles.

COSHH regulations concentrate on controlling workers’ exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace, as well as minimising the risks associated with them, often concerning damage to the lungs, skin, nose, mouth, organs, eyes or central nervous system, as well as the risk of combustion or explosion. As such, risk assessors will ask the following questions to determine the safety of working with hazardous substances:

  • Where is there potential to expose that may be hazardous to health?
  • In what way are the substances hazardous to health?
  • Which jobs or tasks may lead to exposure?
  • Are there any areas of concern?

Why is COSHH Important?

The key importance of COSHH is to avoid any risks to employees’ health as a result of exposure to harmful substances. If you’re asking an employee to use a harmful substance as part of their job, it is important to minimise the risks associated with using such materials, both from a human and legal standpoint - the punishment for failing to comply with COSHH regulations can be severe with a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and six months imprisonment.

The Importance of COSHH Assessments

COSHH Risk Assessments, focus on specific hazardous substances that your employees work with as part of their job, or those that are produced as a result of their job e.g. wood dust or silica. A separate risk assessment is usually required for each substance.

Risk assessments help employers to understand who may be exposed to harmful materials, and how it might impact their health, including how the substance enters the body, how often they work with a specific substance and who else may be exposed. This information allows employers to be able to put safety procedures into place to minimise these risks and to plan for cases of exposure.

Who Needs to Pay Attention to COSHH?

It's not just the stereotypically risky roles and industries such as laboratories, woodwork and mines that need to pay attention to COSHH regulations; millions of people work in environments that bring them into contact with hazardous substances, regardless of how mild or severe these substances are. 

A few examples of less obvious workplaces that need to adhere to COSHH regulations include:

  • Cleaners The Automotive industry Food preparation workers
  • Painters and decorators

In fact, most workplaces can benefit from COSHH training and/or a review of their COSHH policies and procedures. At HSEDocs we make it easy to comply with COSHH regulations with an array of health and safety documents and pre-filled templates specifically designed for COSHH. Take a look online today and start the process of providing a safer working environment for your employees.

Key COSHH Regulations & Employer Responsibilities

COSHH regulations state five areas of employer responsibility

  • Identifying which harmful substances are present in the workplace
  • Understanding how employees may be exposed to and harmed by such substances
  • Putting measures into place to prevent harm and regularly reviewing them
  • Providing suitable instruction and training
  • Monitoring the health of employees that are exposed to harmful substances

Below we go into more detail about each of these key responsibilities as set by COSHH regulations:



A key responsibility as set out by COSHH regulations is for employers to prevent or control exposure to hazardous substances. This may include the provision of suitable PPE or sourcing less hazardous alternative materials.

Control Measures

Control measures should be implemented prior to any employee working with hazardous substances. These should be regularly reviewed and updated as appropriate.


Employees that work with hazardous substances must be provided with suitable information, instruction and training in preparation for working with hazardous materials.


Workplaces must implement proper procedures for handling exposure, accidents and emergencies related to hazardous materials.


Employers should ensure that employees working with hazardous substances are appropriately monitored for their safety.

COSHH Risk Assessments



Employers must adhere to the Workplace Exposure Limit


On the other side of the coin, employees are also responsible for a number of COSHH regulations, including:

  • Assisting co-workers in creating a safe work environment
  • Following procedures
  • Wearing correct PPE
  • Reporting any and all incidents including accidents, spillages and breakages
  • Attending medical check-ups if and when required
  • Using cleaning materials and showering facilities provided by employers in line with workplace procedures
  • Keeping up to date with relevant training

COSHH Resources at HSEDocs

Hopefully by now we’ve convinced you to thoroughly review your workplace’s COSHH policies and procedures, but don’t be put off by how much work you think is involved in this task - Here at HSEDocs we have a wide range of specifically designed documents for  for COSHH, including COSHH Risk Assessments, COSHH Data Sheets, and other assessment forms.

Take a look at our range online today and make a start on minimising the risk of exposure to harmful substances in your workplace, whether that be dish soap, floor cleaner, paint, or silica dust.