SC37 - COSHH: Safe use of chemicals / hazardous substances
08 Feb 2011







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Initial releaseFebruary 2011
1.1Update for licensed chemicalsMay 2011
1.2Changes to training matrix for online COSHH awareness courseFeb 2012
1.3Added SSC Controlled Substances procedure to Appendix 1March 2012
1.4Updated Nanomaterials guidanceSeptember 2012
1.5Amendments to audit checklistMay 2013
Add Document Retention Policy Appendix and
REACH info to Appendix 1
December 2014
Minor change to 4.2.10
February 2016
Minor changes to reflect Hazard Phrases and Precautionary Statements on safety data sheets
December​ 2016
Minor changes to reflect the launch of SHE Assure
​October 2018
​Added new appendix - guidance note on lead 
​January 2021
​Added updated guidance on HF use to Appendix 2
​September 2021​

1. Purpose

The work of the STFC involves the manufacture, storage and use of a wide variety of potentially hazardous substances. This includes substances such as cleaning chemicals; dusts; fumes; gases; paints; oils and coatings which are used in office/work environments and by contractors working for the STFC, through to those typically used in chemistry laboratories and research environments including, nano-materials and the unusual and diverse materials brought to STFC facilities by facility users.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 (as amended), aim to protect users and others from the adverse effects of a wide range of hazardous substances used at work.

This code should be considered alongside the following codes:

2. Scope

This code applies throughout STFC sites where hazardous substances are used or generated as part of a process/activity.

This code addresses the requirement to carry out a COSHH assessment arising from the hazardous properties of a substance which may cause ill health for example through inhalation or harm to your skin.

The COSHH assessment is only part of General Risk Assessment for a process, activity or area which should also consider the other non-chemical hazards such as flammability, radioactivity etc. or the way in which that substance is used for example at non-standard temperatures or pressures. See STFC Safety Code 6 Risk Management.

This code does not address the assessment of biological agents and genetically modified organisms, see SHE Code 16 – Biological Safety. For which the specialist support and advice of the STFC Biological Safety Officer should be sought prior to commencing such work.

Certain chemicals require specific extra precautions for use on site due to having certain properties that can make their use very hazardous.

Chemicals with specific requirements are: - (please refer to following appendices for information)​

​Lead (Appendix 5)​
​Cadmium and its compounds (Appendix 2)
​Mercury (Appendix 2)
​Hydrofluoric acid (HF) (Appendix 2)
​Beryllium (Appendix 2)
​Nano-materials (Appe​ndix 2)

This code does not apply to work which involves or may involve exposure to asbestos. See SHE Code 35 Management of Asbestos.

This code does not address the disposal or transport of hazardous waste. See STFC Safety Codes 27 and 31

3. Definitions

3.1 Substance hazardous to health

The COSHH Regulations define a hazardous substance as the intrinsic property of that substance which has the potential to cause harm to the health of a person. The following are defined as substances hazardous to health:

  1. Substances listed in Part 1 of the approved supply list as dangerous for supply within the meaning of the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) (CHIP) Regulations and are defined as very toxic, toxic, harmful, corrosive or irritant;

  2. Substances which the Health and Safety Executive have assigned a Work Exposure Limit, see HSE, “Workplace Exposure Limits: Containing the list of workplace exposure limits for use with the Control Of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended), EH40;

  3. A biological agent (See STFC Safety Code 16 – Biological Safety);

  4. Dust of any kind (not cited in (a) or (b) above however). [Minimum airborne dust levels are laid down for the dust to qualify];

  5. any other substance which creates a comparable risk to health to any of the above.
3.2 COSHH assessor

A suitably qualified and experienced person appointed by a Director to make or approve chemical safety assessments within a Department and to advise as required on the handling, storage, use and disposal of chemicals within a Department.

4. Responsibilities

4.1 Directors shall:
  • 4.1.1 - Appoint in writing a suitable number of COSHH Assessors considered competent and experienced to carry out the duties defined in this code. For details of competencies and training see Appendix 5. Record their appointment in the SHE Directory and communicate it to staff.
    4.1.1 - Appoint in writing a suitable number of COSHH Assessors considered competent and experienced to carry out the duties defined in this code. For details of competencies and training see Appendix 5. Record their appointment and communicate it to staff.
  • 4.1.2 - Ensure that suitable procedures are in place to make sure that any hazardous substances used on STFC Facilities under their control have been subject to a suitable COSHH assessment.
4.2 Line managers (group leaders) shall:
  • 4.2.1 - Ensure that, prior to purchase of chemicals/hazardous substances, consideration is given to non-hazardous alternatives and to minimising quantities purchased or used and that suitable storage is available for all hazardous substances brought onto STFC sites.
  • 4.2.2 - Ensure that areas containing substances that are incompatible are suitably isolated (e.g. oxidizing and reducing substances) and stored. All chemicals/hazardous substances must also be correctly and legibly labelled.
  • 4.2.3 - Where proprietary chemicals are being used in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions, the chemical hazard and any control measures may be included in a general risk assessment rather than a separate COSHH Assessment (see Appendix 3).
  • 4.2.4 - Ensure that COSHH assessments are undertaken or approved by a COSHH Assessor before new work involving hazardous substances commences.
  • 4.2.5 - Ensure that an inventory of hazardous substances is maintained (see Appendix 4 for a suitable template) and Safety Data Sheets from the supplier are available to those using or exposed to them.
  • 4.2.6 - Ensure the results of the COSHH assessment are communicated to the persons working with the hazardous substances, ensuring that those persons are trained and competent in their use and understand any controls detailed in the COSHH (and/or general) risk assessments for their work.
  • 4.2.7 - Ensure that the COSHH assessments are reviewed every two years, or when there is a significant change, for example an update to the Safety Data Sheet, following the results of workplace monitoring or when there is reason to suspect that the assessment is no longer valid.
  • 4.2.8 - Where workplace monitoring of individuals exposed to hazardous substances is identified as being required, contact the SHE Group who will provide advice on the monitoring to be undertaken.
  • 4.2.9 - Ensure that, where any Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV), fume cupboards, or any other form of atmospheric containment is indicated as a control measure, including any new installations, they are registered with the SHE Group for statutory inspection purposes and are designed to the relevant British Standard prior to use.
  • 4.2.10 - Ensure that all equipment used to control hazardous substances, LEV or gaseous monitoring system in their area of responsibility are regularly maintained, tested and as appropriate calibrated, and the records of such actions retained. For example glove boxes, LEV systems, extraction hoods, fume cupboards, oxygen depletion monitoring systems or toxic gas monitoring systems​
  • 4.2.11 - Ensure that any requirement for health surveillance highlighted by the COSHH assessment is reported to the Occupational Health Department, see SHE Code 24: Occupational Health Screening and Health Screening Medicals and those individuals identified undertake health surveillance.
  • 4.2.12 - As appropriate, ensure that specialist first aid medical facilities are available to those using hazardous chemicals, and that staff are trained and competent to use them, and that they are regularly maintained. For example users of Hydrofluoric acid (HF) should only start work once they are in possession of a HF antidote gel (Calcium Gluconate) (see Appendix 2​ for more information).
  • 4.2.13 - Ensure that substances which are potentially explosive, at the temperatures and pressures under which they are likely to be used, are not procured or brought onto STFC sites, without first consulting the Site SHE Advisor.
4.3 COSHH Assessors shall:
  • 4.3.1 - Carry out or approve COSHH assessments or approve COSHH hazards and controls in general risk assessments, see Appendix 3, consulting with other persons as needed. The assessment shall include consideration of:

    • the hazardous property of the substance(s) being used (see hazard label(s));
    • information on the health effects (see safety data sheet);
    • the level, type and duration of exposure to those affected;
    • work, including the amount of substance involved;
    • the usual hierarchy of control measures (elimination, reduction, isolation, controls, PPE, discipline/supervision);
    • activities, such as maintenance where there is the potential for a high level of exposure;
    • any relevant occupational exposure limit;
    • the effect of control measures;
    • the results of health surveillance;
    • results of workplace monitoring;
    • where relevant, the effects of exposure to combination of substances or the products of chemical reactions;
    • any additional information required for the assessment such as disposal or spill procedures. 

  • 4.3.2 - Ensure that, where a substance has a Work Exposure Limit (WEL), suitable controls and workplace monitoring are specified to ensure that any WEL cannot be exceeded.
  • 4.3.3 - Ensure that any licensed or registration requirements (see Appendix 1) are highlighted in the assessment.
  • 4.3.4 - Provide a copy of the assessment to the responsible line manager (group leader).
4.4 SHE Group shall:
  • 4.4.1 - Ensure that where requested, monitoring of exposure to hazardous substances is carried out by a competent person.
  • 4.4.2 - Provide advice and support, where required, for the assessment of substances hazardous to health
  • 4.4.3 - Assess the suitability of COSHH assessments in the wider site context where unstable or energetic materials are to be introduced.
  • 4.4.4 - Ensure that an up to date register of Local Exhaust Ventilation installations is kept and that the required statutory inspections are carried out. At some STFC sites this responsibility may be undertaken by other groups.
4.5 Occupational health departments shall:
4.6 Staff and others using hazardous substances shall:
  • 4.6.1 - Not purchase any hazardous substance without ensuring that suitable storage will be available for the material when it arrives on site both in Logistics and in the area where it is to be used.
  • 4.6.2 - Co-operate with COSHH Assessors in completing any COSHH assessment prior to the first use of any hazardous substance.
  • 4.6.3 - Ensure they understand the requirement for and adhere to any control measures required by COSHH assessments (or where relevant the Safety Data Sheet​) and report any equipment failures, incidents or spillages promptly to their Line Manager and to SHE Group following STFC SHE Code 5, Incident Reporting and Investigation.​
4.7 STFC Facility Users shall:
  • 4.7.1 - Follow any COSHH / risk assessment procedures established by STFC when planning to undertake an experiment on any STFC User Facility.
  • 4.7.2 - Provide relevant information for COSHH assessment as required by the STFC Facility procedure. Where materials require a license (see Appendix 1), it is normal for the visiting institution to extend their license to cover the STFC site they are visiting.
4.8 Contract Supervising Officers shall:
  • 4.8.1 - Where contractors bring chemicals/hazardous substances onto STFC sites, ensure that specific COSHH assessments have been provided by the contractors and are adhered to, as part of an overall risk assessment of their activities.
  • 4.8.2 - Ensure that their method statements detail how such materials will be managed, handled and disposed of and that they are adhered to.

5. References

  • 5.1 - L5, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, Approved Code of Practice and Guidance, HSC.
  • 5.2 - COSHH Essentials.
  • 5.3 - EH40/2005, Workplace Exposure Limits, HSC.
  • 5.4 - Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009
  • 5.5 - BS EN 14175 for Fume Cupboards & BS 7989 for re-circulating fume cupboards
  • 5.6 - HSG 285 for guidance on LEV​

Contact: Baker, Gareth (STFC,DL,COO)