Health and Safety Executive focus on hazardous substances in the workplace

Posted: 07/01/2014


In December, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced proposed changes to its current Code of Practice on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). The COSHH regulations set out the law that requires employers to control substances which are hazardous to health in the workplace and the Code of Practice provides guidance on how the COSHH regulations should be implemented.

Substances hazardous to health include:

  • chemicals
  • products containing
  • chemicals
  • fumes
  • dusts
  • vapours
  • mists
  • nanotechnology
  • gases and asphyxiating gases
  • biological agents
  • certain germs

The proposed changes to the Code focus particularly on issues of ventilation, control measures and health surveillance with a view to detecting any adverse impact on employees at an early stage. The Code will also underline that the legal duty ‘to keep a suitable record of thorough examination and test’ lies with the employer rather than with any occupational health service or provider. The non-delegable nature of any employer’s duties in the health and safety context is often overlooked and the revised Code will draw attention to this.

Philippa Luscombe, head of the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: “The reality is that some employers are unaware of the substances covered by the COSHH regulations and their obligations and others simply do not comply with the regulations. We are currently dealing with a number of cases of clients with respiratory, burn and dermatological problems arising out of contact with substances at work. The fact that the HSE is providing further guidance and emphasising the employer’s responsibilities and the need for health surveillance can only be a good thing and we hope that employers make themselves aware of the new Code in due course and follow its guidance.”


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