Supporting UK Composites

Harmful Substances

Many materials or substances used or created at work could harm your health. These substances could be dusts, gases or fumes that you breathe in, or liquids, gels or powders that come into contact with your eyes or skin. There could also be harmful micro-organisms present that can cause infection, an allergic reaction or are toxic.

Harmful substances can be present in anything from paints and cleaners to flour dust, solder fume, blood or waste. Ill health caused by these substances used at work is preventable. Many substances can harm health but, used properly, they almost never do.

What do I need to do?

The law requires you to adequately control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health. This is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) and means:

  • identifying which harmful substances may be present in the workplace
  • deciding how workers might be exposed to them and be harmed
  • looking at what measures you have in place to prevent this harm and deciding whether you are doing enough
  • providing information, instruction and training
  • in appropriate cases, providing health surveillance

For more information access the HSE online COSHH essentials webtool

The law

If your business uses or creates substances, or carries out processes which might cause harm to health, the law requires you to control the risks to employees. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) apply to most harmful substances but lead and asbestos are covered by separate regulations, as specified later in this section.

If you manufacture or import chemicals you should look at the European REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation No 1907/2006.

REACH - European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)

If you manufacture, import or formulate chemicals for supply, you should look at the European Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP) Regulation No 1272/2008, and the national Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009 (CHIP).  The CHIP Regulations will be replaced by the CLP Regulation  from 1 June 2015.

If you transport chemicals, you should look at the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2004 (as amended 2005) (the Carriage Regulations 2004)

Dust/fume extraction
Effective LEV (local exhaust ventilation) or dust/fume extraction can carry away airborne contaminants before they can be breathed in. The effective application of LEV requires a good understanding of processes and the dust sources they create.
Many employers buy LEV to protect workers' health but find that it doesn't work. This may be because it's the wrong type or because it's not properly installed or maintained.


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