COSHH - Hazardous Substances Routes of Entry
Hazardous substances are present in some form in virtually every place of work. COSHH - the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health - regulations aim to protect workers from suffering short-term or long-term ill health through working with hazardous and harmful substances. Whilst the danger and level of hazard will vary depending on the particular industry, even what are considered low risk working environments will almost certainly contain some sort of COSHH risk such as cleaning fluids like bleach.
Hazardous substances can take a variety of forms, which obviously affect how the particular substance can enter or have an effect on a person's body. A COSHH risk assessment should not only determine which hazardous substances pose a risk to health, but also to identify how these particular substances can enter the body, so that remedial action can be taken to prevent harm occurring.
Although there are a number of methods and routes of entry for a person to acquire a harmful substance into the body, the three main ones are:
Inhaling:- Breathing in a hazardous substance is the most common route for a hazardous substance to enter the body. Substances such as harmful fumes, organic contaminates like fungi or bacteria, or inorganic particles like dust can all be inhaled, where they enter the lungs, causing damage to them, or are absorbed into the bloodstream where harmful toxins can be spread around the body, causing potential damage to organs.
Absorption through the skin:- This method of entry occurs when the substance in question comes into contact with the skin and enters the body through an open wound or through the pores of the skin.
Ingestion:- Although not as common as the other two methods listed above, substances which are harmful to health can also be ingested through the mouth either by breathing in dust particles through the mouth, or by accidental swallowing (e.g. a hazardous substance on the hands which was not washed off before handling food).
Injection:- Accidental injuries caused by sharp objects can penetrate the skin and allow harmful substances into the body. Particular hazards include discarded needles and syringes. There are numerous occupations where sharps risks are present including customs officials searching luggage, waste disposal workers (either medical waste or household), and construction workers where illegal drug use may have taken place on abandoned or derelict sites, or even current building sites if there have been trespassers on site overnight during the construction work.
Once harmful substances have entered the body, they can cause damage to one or more of the body's systems, depending upon the type of substance in question and its particular properties. The systems of the body that are most at risk are the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the nervous system and the urinary system.
As with most risks, prevention is a much more preferable option than dealing with the consequences. For this reason, it is vital that your employees receive suitable COSHH training which covers the particular substances that they will be working with or around during their workplace activities. COSHH training should therefore form a part of your programme of health and safety training, including managers and supervisors being able to perform a sufficient COSHH risk assessment.
As well as performing sufficient and regular COSHH risk assessments, suitable health and safety training for both workers and management is vital in order to prevent occupational illness and injury from hazardous substances.
Because of the wide-ranging nature of COSHH risks according to the activities of each business, a COSHH open course would not be that practical, as it is unlikely to be totally relevant for people coming on the course with differing workplace activities and hazards. A COSHH training course is much more effective if done in-house to a group of employees from the same company.
A number of accredited health and safety courses now include an element of COSHH information on their syllabus to address this important health and safety topic. Along with these, having your workers undertake a bespoke COSHH training course will allow the course content to be tailored to your specific requirements and the particular substances your employees use whilst at work.
We have two COSHH courses that are sometimes scheduled as open courses, but are more often used as a basis upon which to build a bespoke COSHH course which is tailored to your requirements and particular working environment. It can also focus more accurately on the specific COSHH regulations affecting your organisation.
Please click on the course titles below to read more about our COSHH courses.
Our COSHH Awareness training course is aimed at employees who deal with hazardous substances on a daily basis, and will give them a sound understanding of their COSHH responsibilities for controlling these hazardous substances.
Our COSHH for Managers and Supervisors course covers issues such as COSHH regulations, practical control measures, conducting a COSHH risk assessment and maintaining appropriate records.
Bespoke COSHH Training
COSHH training is most effective when run as a bespoke health and safety training course for an organisation, which is tailored to the particular substances and risks that their workers face. Attending an open course which tells your workers to store substances correctly and not to spill them is fine, but a COSHH training course which focuses on the correct storage and handling of the actual substances they use, and incorporates the firm's specific health and safety policy and operating procedures will be much more beneficial.
If you would like to discuss your COSHH training requirements with one of our expert health and safety consultants, please call us on 0844 800 3295 or contact us online by clicking the "Contact" tab at the top of the page.