How to Protect Staff and Patients From Hazardous Substances

The Citation Group
By The Citation Group

Citation empowers over 50,000 growing businesses to be ready for anything by turning the complicated parts of running a business into clarity.


Consulting Room partner and Health & Safety consultants Citation outline how to protect staff and patients from hazardous substances.
 
Health & Safety is an ever-changing area of compliance – especially in the past couple of years with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Because of this, it can be hard to stay on top of all your legal responsibilities when it comes to Health & Safety in your business.
 
An important area to consider in the aesthetics industry is Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) risk assessment. A COSHH risk assessment focuses on the potential risks of any hazardous substances found or created within your business’s premises.
 
If the thought of conducting a COSHH assessment is filling you with fear, then it need not; we have stripped the process back into five simple steps for you.
 
1) Identify which substances are hazardous
Inventory: First thing’s first, create an inventory listing which details substances that are hazardous. Officially, COSHH risk assessments only need to be done on hazards that are legally classified as ‘hazardous’. When you are putting your list together, remember, some harmful substances can be produced as the result of a process – like silica dust from tile cutting, for example.
 
Labelling: If a substance is deemed hazardous, it will have a red and white diamond-shaped label on it. By law, the packaging must also detail the hazardous nature of the product using legally approved wording, like acute toxicity or serious health hazard, for example.
 
Safety Data Sheets: When you are checking labels, be mindful that some packaging does not actually explain the hazardous nature of a product. If this is the case, you should look-up the product on a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to see what the hazardous properties are. The manufacturer of the product should have supplied you with an SDS; if they have not, you should contact them and request the most up-to-date version.
 
Grouping: Higher-risk substances, like those that might cause cancer, for example, must be assessed individually. To save time though, you are able to group substances with similar hazardous properties and controls together.
 
2) Who’s at risk?
Once you’ve compiled a comprehensive inventory, you need to determine who’s most at risk - this could be employees or visitors.
 

If you have any vulnerable employees, carefully consider whether they are at greater risk. Vulnerable employees include, but are not limited to:

  • Pregnant women
  • Young persons
  • Disabled employees
  • Employees with known illnesses
For a better understanding of which employees might have pre-existing health issues relating to hazardous substance exposure, you should consider asking employees to complete a health screening questionnaire.
 
3) Assess the risks
Assess the risk involved with all the items listed on your inventory. This kind of information can be gathered from a number of sources, like Safety Data Sheets, supplier information and employee knowledge.
 
During this process, ask yourself questions like:
  • What’s the nature of the substance, e.g. is it corrosive?
  • How much of the substance is used/handled?
  • What’s the form of the substance, e.g. gas or liquid?
  • How might employees be affected by the substance? E.g. inhalation, splash on the skin, puncture wound, etc.
  • Are employees trained in handling the substances on the list?
4. Put protective measures in place
If significant risks have been identified in the previous step, it is important to put appropriate measures in place to protect your employees – following a hierarchical approach is recommended.
 
1. Eliminate the risk: Is the substance really needed? Could the process be changed so that it is eliminated altogether?
 
2. Reduce the risk: If you cannot eliminate the substance, can you substitute it for something less hazardous?
 
3. Engineering methods: Can the way in which the substance is currently handled be changed, to something less risky? E.g. using a fume cupboard.
 
5. Record, monitor and review
There’s no legal format when it comes to recording COSHH risk assessments. However, for best practice, we’d recommend recording your assessment – in writing – so that employees can easily digest the process.
 
Your recording should include things like:
  • The name of the substance
  • Where the substance is used
  • Why the substance is used
  • The hazardous properties of the substance including workplace exposure limits (WELs)
  • How the substance can enter an individual’s body
  • Who’s at risk
  • What control measures you’ve put in place
COSHH risk assessments should be carried out each time a new substance is brought onto the premises, and when any changes are made to the Safety Data Sheets. If these instances do not occur frequently enough, we’d advise you carry out annual assessments.
 
It is also important to regularly monitor your processes too, and make sure all relevant employees are following the process correctly.
 
How can Citation help?
Our teams of Health & Safety and HR & Employment Law experts have helped thousands of clients get on top of their regulatory responsibilities and duties.
 
If you’d like the backing of our expert team, call 0345 844 1111, and we’ll be happy to discuss your business’s needs.
 
Or get in touch with us online by visiting citation.co.uk.
This article was written for the Consulting Room Magazine.
 
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