CoSHH and LEV Testing

No employer may carry on with work liable to expose employees to substances hazardous to their health, unless a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks created by that work, and of the steps needed to comply with COSHH has been made (Regulation 6 of The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002). A suitable and sufficient assessment should include:

Assessments should be regularly reviewed and whenever there is any evidence to suspect that it is no longer valid, or where there has been a significant change in the work to which the assessment relates.

The COSHH assessment procedure follows a logical series of steps, beginning with the identification of the hazards associated with a particular substance. Suppliers are legally obliged to provide safety data information (MSDS) for their products to customers which should contain a list of any hazardous substances contained within the product, and any other pertinent information such as emergency/first aid procedures and control measures to implement when using the substance. Hazards can be chemical, physical, biological or microbiological.

Once the hazard has been identified and prevention of exposure is not considered to be reasonably practicable, an assessment can be made of the risks to health from the substance when used with a particular process or operation. This assessment may incorporate monitoring of an individual's exposure to the substance, for example by sampling the air quality in the vicinity of the operation or by biological monitoring, where blood/tissue samples are taken from the operative and analysed for accumulation of the substance. The results of the monitoring can be compared with relevant guideline concentrations published by the HSE in order to aid in the assessment of the risk to health.

A number of different monitoring techniques exist, but in general they all consist of drawing air from in the vicinity of breathing zone of the operative through a collection mechanism e.g. a liquid or solid sorbent which collects the substance(s) of concern. The sample can then be transported to a laboratory and analysed to quantify the amount of substance present.

Once the concentration of the substance in air has been quantified, it can be compared with any relevant published workplace exposure limits (WELs) to assist in the assessment of risk to health. The Health and Safety Executive annually publish a list of WELs in the publication EH40.

Where a risk to health is likely, or a potential risks exists, and it is not considered practicable to eliminate exposure to the substance, a number of controls should be implemented to reduce the risk to an acceptable level. These may include engineering controls such as the introduction of local exhaust ventilation or management controls such as the rotation of tasks between employees to reduce the exposure to any one employee. The provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) should always be looked upon as a last resort, and should never be the first line of defence to minimise exposure to the hazard.

The eight principles of good practice for 'the control of exposure to substances hazardous to health are set out in Schedule 2A of The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (see below) If employers apply the principles correctly, exposure should be below any relevant WEL. Control by personal protective equipment should only be used when other measures are not reasonably practicable. The list of WELs applies to concentrations of hazardous substances breathed in by the worker and are used to determine the adequacy of control measures.

The principles are

  1. design and operate processes and activities to minimise emission, release and spread of substances hazardous to health;
  2. take into account all relevant routes of exposure - inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion - when developing control measures;
  3. control exposure by measures that are proportionate to the health risk;
  4. choose the most effective and reliable control options which minimise the escape and spread of substances hazardous to health;
  5. where adequate control of exposure cannot be achieved by other means, provide, in combination with other control measures, suitable personal protective equipment;
  6. check and review regularly all elements of control measures for their continuing effectiveness;
  7. inform and train all employees on the hazards and risks from the substances with which they work and the use of control measures developed to minimise the risks;
  8. ensure that the introduction of control measures does not increase the overall risk to health and safety.

NEMS is able to assist clients in compliance with their legal obligations under COSHH in a number of ways, ranging from walk-through surveys to identify processes and hazardous substances present, to a comprehensive air monitoring service and subsequent recommendations for control measures designed to reduce to an absolute minimum any potential risk to health. The completed assessment is provided on a standard proforma which can be tailored to the specific needs of your organisation.

In addition to monitoring and assessment, we provide testing of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to meet the requirements of the 14-monthly inspection required under Regulation 9 of COSHH.

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