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COSHH Training or NEBOSH General Certificate?
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (or COSHH as it is usually referred to as) is an area of health and safety which should be given a great deal of attention. There is often a perception that COSHH training is only necessary for workers who are employed by large industrial companies that use highly dangerous chemicals and substances.
It is true that workers in these companies will most definitely require COSHH training in the dangers and risks associated with these substances, as they are likely to cause severe injuries, ill health or death if they are exposed to them in a way which should be avoided (e.g. either at all or over a recommended maximum length of time). However it is also the case that a worker in virtually any place of work is likely to encounter - or at least have the potential to come into contact with - a substance which can cause them to become ill or receive an injury from it.
These include substances which in all likelihood do not immediately spring to mind when thinking about COSHH risks and dangers from hazardous substances; for instance cleaning products such as bleach, printer cartridge ink/toner, or even thick layers of dust from disturbing an area which has not been touched for a while. So no matter what the type of industry or the substances used in it, nearly every employee would benefit from COSHH training in some form.
Workers do not even have to be the ones performing the task to be at risk
Whilst those employees using the substance will be the primary ones to be at risk, people who would normally have nothing to do with the substance can quickly find themselves exposed to it. Examples of this include:
Insufficient Containment Measures in Place
Although those carrying out the work may protect themselves, their activities can cause harm to everyone else nearby. An example of this is dust created from drilling activities. Those operating the drill may have suitable protective equipment like masks to prevent inhalation of the dust, if they do not properly contain the works area this dust can create issues for other people who happen to be working next to it or walking past the location.
Just as care needs to be taken when using – or performing an activity that creates – a hazardous substance, the same is true when these substances are stored away. Any leak or spillage can release a gas or liquid that poses a threat to the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone in the area, not to mention the possible risks to the environment also.
To prevent such a situation, care and attention must be paid to ensuring that containers are not damaged, and that the storage area itself is free from potential issues that could cause a hazardous substance to get out and affect people, plant or animal life in the vicinity.
Contamination of Nearby Areas
Whether it is inadequate or a damaged storage facility as talked about above, or released – accidentally or deliberately – into the surrounding environment, anybody nearby can be simply going about their own business when they could find themselves negatively affected by a COSHH substance.
A lack of containment or inadequate storage can lead to this, but it can also happen by accident, such as leaking equipment, or sometimes even deliberately, such as releasing harmful liquid into a nearby watercourse which then contaminates a wide area.
COSHH Exposure Over Time
An added danger of COSHH substances comes from the fact that whilst people may think that being exposed to a small amount is fine, the cumulative effects can build up. An exposure to even small amounts of COSHH substances over a long period of time can build up and lead to serious illnesses such as respiratory ailments or cancer.
This is a reason why all COSHH issues, even when small amounts are involved, need to be addressed and eliminated or reduced in a timely manner. Any exposure, even just a small amount, is not good for a person or the environment.
The Need for a COSHH Risk Assessment
As COSHH and hazardous substances are such a common danger to all workers, the environment and members of the public, there is no surprise that the topic of COSHH is one which is taught to all employees as part of their health and safety training programme.
Only by teaching and providing them with the knowledge regarding the prevalence and potential far-reaching negative consequences of COSHH hazardous substances - and how their actions or inactions will contribute to any potential dangers – will employees know how act.
Similarly, a COSHH risk assessment is essential in order to identify potential risks BEFORE they occur. By doing so, appropriate action and measures can be put into place to prevent these scenarios from happening, or at the very least, minimising the chances as far as it is reasonably practical to do so.
Is COSHH Covered in the NEBOSH General Certificate Course Syllabus?
Many different hazards and risks are covered in the NEBOSH General Certificate course syllabus, including COSHH and hazardous substances. Whilst it will touch upon related topics such as Workplace Exposure Limits, types of risks and preventative control measures, it will only provide a general overview of these issues.
For those who require a more detailed knowledge of COSHH safety, especially those who work with highly-dangerous substances, then they will need to undertake suitable COSHH training which may also need to be tailored and specialised to deal with the dangers and control measures of the exact substances which they may encounter in their place of work.
If you have any questions regarding COSHH training, the NEBOSH General Certificate or indeed any other aspect of your potential health and safety training requirements, please get in touch either by calling 0844 800 3295 or by sending us an online contact form by clicking on the "Contact" tab at the top of any page of our website.