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Hazardous substances (COSHH)

We can provide advice on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, which provide a framework to help protect people in the workplace against health risks from hazardous substances.

Every year exposure to hazardous substances at work affects the health of thousands of people. These substances may be used directly by your staff, for example cleaning chemicals, or they may arise from the work activity carried out by your employees, for example dust or fumes. 

Common effects include:

  • lung disease caused by dusty conditions
  • skin irritation dermatitis caused by frequent contact with oils, or contact with corrosive liquids
  • occupational asthma
  • occupational cancer        

These illnesses can have a significant cost to your business through loss of productivity, prosecution or civil action. 


COSHH lays down a sensible step-by-step approach to managing the necessary precautions and has the following benefits to both you and your employees:

  • tighter control over the use and storage of materials
  • improved morale 
  • better industrial relations
  • protecting the business against legal action       

What substances does COSHH apply to?

COSHH applies to a wide range of substances regarded as hazardous to health:

  • substances regarded as dangerous to health under the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002 (CHIP)
  • substances with occupational exposure limits
  • biological agents
  • any kind of dust
  • any other substance which creates a risk to health       

It does not apply to the following:

  • asbestos and lead (which have their own regulations)
  • substances which are hazardous only because they are radioactive, at high pressure or temperature, or have explosive/flammable properties
  • biological agents outside the employers control       

We enforce health and safety law (including the law relating to COSHH), and provide advice in certain types of premises within County Durham, for example:

  • shops offices
  • warehouses
  • consumer service
  • leisure activities
  • hotels       

Other activities such as manufacturing are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

What can you do

The law requires you to control exposure to hazardous substances to prevent ill health. You have to protect both employees and others by complying with the COSHH regulations.

To comply with COSHH you need to follow these eight steps:

  • assess the risks
  • decide what precautions are needed
  • prevent or adequately control exposure
  • ensure that control measures are used and maintained
  • monitor exposure
  • carry out appropriate health surveillance
  • where necessary prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents and emergencies
  • ensure employees are properly informed, trained and supervised          

Further information is provided in Health and Safety Executive (HSE): a brief guide to COSHH

Contact us for advice or information on COSHH. Please provide your businesses name (or that of your employer), the address of the business, and details of what the business does.  

What can we do

We inspect businesses where COSHH may apply and provide advice and information to help you comply with the law. 

If necessary we will take appropriate enforcement action to control the risk from exposure to hazardous substances. 

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