Appendix 1

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations – notes on completion of assessment forms

UPS S6/14 Appendix 1 CoSHH Form (36kb)

General advice – A COSHH assessment must be made before the start of any work involving a hazardous substance. The assessment will often need to be in writing and use of the form will facilitate this. Complete all sections if applicable; you should cross through those that do not apply, to indicate clearly that the section has been properly considered and not simply omitted.

Note that COSHH assessments are not only required for laboratory operations. Maintenance tasks, in particular, often use large quantities of hazardous substances and will require written assessments.

Generally, however, the assessment should cover the whole process or procedure and separate assessment forms need not be completed for each individual substance used.

A written assessment will always be required in the following cases:

  1. where substances may cause serious damage to the eyes or serious damage to health by prolonged exposure, sensitisation via the inhalation or dermal routes, heritable genetic damage, which may cause cancer or are cancer-causing by inhalation, which may impair fertility or cause harm to the unborn child or breast fed babies
  2. where extreme toxicity is indicated (e.g. LD50 oral, rat, <1 mg kg -1)
  3. where special first aid provision is required (e.g. for cyanide, hydrofluoric acid, phenol)
  4. where substances with a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) are used and are likely to give rise to significant exposure (e.g. where volatile or dusty chemicals are used on the open bench with no fume cupboard or other local exhaust ventilation; where adhesives and other volatile preparations, or corrosive materials, are used in maintenance operations)
  5. where procedures involve the risk of asphyxiation (e.g. by nitrogen or helium)
  6. where procedures involve explosive or pyrophoric substances (although these are not strictly subject to the COSHH Regulations, the form provides a convenient format for making the risk assessment required under other relevant legislation, i.e. DSEAR).
  7. work with biological agents, which must be assessed according to the University’s Biological Safety Policy.

This is not an exhaustive list and other written assessments may be required. Take advice from your departmental safety officer if in doubt.

The information on the form must be communicated in a suitable way to all personnel involved in or affected by the work (the top copy can be used as part of this process and the duplicate kept as the departmental record). Completed assessment forms should (wherever possible) be kept in the area where the work takes place and their location should be known to all those involved. Storage in electronic form is acceptable.

Department and location of work – Include the location of the work (e.g. a room number) and indicate whether a laboratory, workshop, plant room or some other workplace is involved.

Persons involved – Give their names where possible and indicate who they are (e.g. academic or technical staff, undergraduate or post graduate student, maintenance staff).

Description of procedure or process – Describe briefly what is involved.

Substances used – List the hazardous substances used, avoiding the use of abbreviations or trade names wherever possible and identifying the chemical content, if known.

Quantities used and frequency of use – This information is vital if the potential exposures and hence the potential risks are to be accurately assessed under the conditions which you are using hazardous substances. For instance, some laboratory work involving microgram quantities of highly toxic substance may present little or no risk to the user, if appropriate procedures are used. On the other hand, some maintenance tasks using substances that are simply irritant or harmful present a high risk because of the very large quantities that are used.

Where larger quantities of substances are used in laboratories, for example decanting from larger volumes of concentrated stock to make working solutions, it may be appropriate to consider the COSHH assessment in two parts (or on two separate forms), since additional control measures and emergency procedures may be required in the former case.

Hazards identified – Identify both the hazardous properties and the potential exposure route. For example, is the substance known to be toxic or harmful? Is it a volatile liquid or a dusty solid? Is it hazardous by inhalation or skin contact?

Information on the hazardous properties of many substances is freely available from manufacturers and suppliers, often online. Try the following sources:

  1. Labels on containers, which may carry orange and black hazard warning symbols and Risk and Safety (R&S) Phrases. (These will be phased out over the next few years and replaced by Hazard and Precautionary Statements).
  2. Labels which may carry the new warning pictograms and Hazard and Precautionary Statements. There are 9 pictograms, all with a white background, a red diamond frame and a black hazard symbol. These have been adopted as part of the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of hazard classification (see also appendix 5) and which will fully replace R&S phrases by 1 June 2017.

Further information on these new pictograms can be viewed at:

 Annexe 1 - Globally Harmonised System

  1. Manufacturers’ and suppliers’ safety data sheets (MSDS)
  2. Standard safety texts, e.g. Hazards in the Chemical Laboratory (Royal Society of Chemistry), Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials (SAX), Handbook of Reactive Chemical Hazards (Bretherick), the Health and Safety Executive publication EH40 for Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs).

Note that most safety information relates to single substances. You will need to make your own judgements, based on experience and extrapolation of known hazards, if the risks from reactions or mixtures are to be correctly assessed.

Could a less hazardous substance, or form of the substance, be used instead? – If the answer is yes, then you must justify why you are not using it. COSHH requires you to substitute less hazardous materials wherever possible, but there may be good reasons for not using them. You should state those reasons here.

What measures have you taken to control the risk? – You have identified the hazards present in the operation and made some estimate of potential exposure to those hazards, and the route of entry. Your control measures should now be chosen to prevent or minimise those exposures and thus to prevent or minimise any resulting harm, i.e. to ensure that the risks are adequately controlled. You must consider those who may be particularly at risk (e.g. pregnant or nursing mothers, those who are vulnerable because of certain medical conditions, or inexperienced workers).  Consider also how your work may affect people who are not directly involved (e.g. cleaners, contractors, security staff, service engineers, visitors, or members of the public) and ensure that your control measures will protect them too.

Engineering control measures – Specify what equipment you will use (e.g. a fume cupboard, dust extraction unit or other LEV, glove box, total enclosure).

Personal protective equipment (PPE) – Specify the sort of PPE required.

If dust masks are specified, then identify the standard required (e.g. EN149: 2001 FFP2, or protection factor 10). Note that a fit test is required for individuals who must wear tight-fitting RPE.

If gloves are needed you must also identify the correct type for the substance in use (e.g. nitrile, butyl rubber, vinyl; disposable or reusable). Manufacturers and suppliers can provide information on chemical compatibility and chemical resistance.

If eye protection is needed, decide whether safety spectacles, goggles or face shields are appropriate.

You may need to specify protective clothing, e.g. lab coats, coveralls or aprons. Further advice can be obtained from the University Safety Office.

Management measures – Consider whether you need other controls on the work, e.g. restricting the quantity of substance that may be used, restricting access to a process, prohibiting lone working, or specifying the level of supervision required (especially where inexperienced workers are involved).

Checks on control measures – You must ensure that your control measures, including written protocols, are effective and continue to work properly.

Simple visual inspections of engineering control measures (e.g. fume cupboards or LEV) should be carried out before use to ensure an inward flow of air away from the operator’s breathing zone (e.g. pressure gauges, airflow indicators, or ‘tell-tales’). Work areas should also be checked for obvious signs of control failure (e.g. dust deposits, odours).

Fume cupboard performance is checked annually by the University Estates Services, and some other types of LEV (e.g. wood dust extraction systems), are checked by a competent contractor engaged centrally. Microbiological safety cabinets are the responsibility of the department, and further information on these may be found in the University’s Biological Safety Policy.

Environmental monitoring will rarely be required.  Take advice from the University Safety Office if you think it might be needed.

Is health surveillance required? – The Occupational Health Service (OHS) will carry out health surveillance where a department has identified that it is necessary in a COSHH assessment. 

Health surveillance will be required if there is likely to be significant exposure to substances where there is evidence of sensitisation or of having a carcinogenic effect via inhalation or the skin, or which are known to cause cancer; to substances likely to cause occupational asthma, e.g. laboratory animal allergens, certain wood dusts, colophony (rosin-based solder flux fume); and to substances of recognised systemic toxicity, e.g. heavy metals and their salts.

Consult the OHS or the University Safety Office if you are unsure whether health surveillance is required.

Special training requirements – decide whether any special training is required to carry out the procedure safely. In most cases, on the job training will be sufficient. The importance of good technique should not be underestimated as a means to help prevent certain exposures e.g. splashes to the eyes, and inexperienced personnel should be supervised closely during their training period. A training record should be kept.

Emergency procedures – in case of accidental exposure or spillage, general principles apply for most substances (e.g. remove people from the contaminated area; wash splashes on skin or in eyes with copious amounts of water; use proprietary spill kits according to their instructions). Complete this section if there is a hazard that requires special procedures in an emergency (either a spillage, an injury or a fire).  For example, for work with hydrofluoric acid then calcium gluconate gel should always be available; for phenol, then polyethylene glycol (PEG) 300 should be available for use in first aid treatment. Where these substances are used personnel in the immediate area should be conversant with any specific first aid measures that apply, as well as those first aiders who may attend an incident.

Waste disposal procedures – consider how any waste will be disposed of before you start the work: waste disposal is expensive and the disposal of some wastes may be extremely difficult. University Policy Statement S7/14 deals with waste disposal and if further advice is needed then consult the University Safety Office.

Name and signatures – the name and signature of the person making the assessment is required. In the case of a student (undergraduate or postgraduate) the supervisor must sign.  Since the head of department is responsible for safety in his/her own department, his/her signature or that of his/her nominee (as identified in the departmental statement of safety policy) must be added.

Additional information – occasionally there might not be room on the form to give all the information needed. In this case, use a separate piece of paper for the additional details and attach it to the assessment form.

Your department may wish to add reference numbers to the forms and a space is provided in the top right-hand corner for this purpose.