What does this mean?
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) is the Health and Safety Executive’s set of rules and guidelines that help people to safely deal with harsh chemicals in their place of work. Cleaners routinely handle materials that can be dangerous if proper care is not taken, so it’s essential to understand these controls to ensure a safe working environment.
Why the changes?
Label on hazardous products used to be governed by national bodies, but from 1st June 2015 they are being standardised across the EU. The changes have been introduced to make sure that anyone handling potentially harmful chemicals will receive the same safety information in all European Union member nations. This is particularly useful for workers who are operating across national borders, and means that any danger of misinterpreting the labels on hazardous chemicals will be avoided.
How are the Symbols Changing?
The familiar orange square images that indicate when a product is hazardous are being replaced with red diamonds. Many of these images will remain the same, however many will be applied to products which contain a far smaller amount of the hazardous ingredient.
For example, under the old system chemicals that were labelled as “Irritating to Eyes” had to contain 20% of the irritant to be labelled as such. Under the new rules this has been lowered to 10%. Similarly those products with “Causes serious eye damage” have changed from a minimum of 10% concentration to 3%. This means that a number of previously unlabelled products will now have hazard labels printed on their packaging.
This is not a cause for concern. The actual makeup of these products has not changed, only the system used to label them. In fact, under the new rules the handling of these lower-concentration products will be much safer as the labels now show when much smaller amounts of the hazardous chemical is present.
How are the Words Changing?
Previously “Indication of danger” words were quite varied; toxic, irritant, corrosive etc. Under the new system they will be replaced by two “signal words” telling you the level of hazard.
All severe hazards will include the word DANGER, whereas all others will include the word WARNING. This gives a much simpler indication of how hazardous a product is, and allows the user to take appropriate precautions.
What does this mean for employees who handle these products?
It is always important that any employee who handles hazardous products understand how to use them safely. These new systems for labelling will make it easier for users to understand how harmful a particular product is, and where precautions need to be taken.
It is important to make sure that any worker who comes into contact with a hazard is fully aware of the risks. Although the ingredients of products has not been changed it is important to pay attention to the labels and to make sure any safety measures needed are in place before they are handled.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides more detailed information on COSHH, along with resources for employers and employees and a wealth of additional information.
These documents can be found here.
At Focus Cleaning our employees have been offering high quality cleaning services for over a decade. We take the safety of our employee and clients seriously, and provide training to ensure that all cleaning products are handled correctly.