When do you need to use a COSHH Cabinet?
When working with any type of hazardous material it is essential it is handled and stored safely at all times. COSHH – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health – is a legal requirement that means you must have procedures in place to reduce or prevent your workers’ exposure to hazardous substances.
There are a number of substances defined by COSHH as being hazardous. These include:
- Gases and asphyxiating gases
- Biological agents
The most common hazardous materials in the workplace, whether in process areas, laboratories, workrooms or similar working areas, are chemicals and products containing chemicals. This is when you need to use a COSHH cabinet, or a number of them, to ensure substances are stored safely to reduce as far as possible any risk to your employees and the physical structure of your workplace.
Why store chemicals in a COSHH cabinet?
Chemicals, if not kept safely, may pose a direct risk to your employees if there were an accident. Your workplace may use some of the chemicals detailed below and you should carry out a risk assessment before deciding how many cabinets you need to use to provide the highest standard of safety.
Chemicals of different types need to be segregated from others and your risk assessment should identify these. The Health and Safety Executive has specific guidelines relating to the storage of flammable liquids, which covers many chemicals, but there are others that also need to be kept safely.
Types of workplace chemicals
- Explosive: these have the potential to be highly dangerous and include explosives, self-reactives and organic peroxides. They should not be stored with any other chemicals.
- Compressed gases: these are contained in cylinders under pressure and if exposed to fire and extreme heat they have the potential to explode. They may be flammable or non-flammable but can be toxic so you should take advice on those that should be segregated.
- Flammable liquids: most chemical liquids are flammable and some could spontaneously ignite when exposed to air (pyrophorics). Your risk assessment will determine how these should be stored and handled in a safe way.
There are a number of other substances that can prove hazardous in the workplace in addition to the above. These include those that can cause allergic reactions to the eyes or skin as well as respiratory problems, hazards that may be acutely toxic to the immediate environment or to the exterior of the workplace, such as fumes, dust particles and contamination of water sources, and substances with corrosive properties.
Carrying out a risk assessment will determine which substances must be stored in a COSHH cabinet and if these should be separated when stored. The Health and Safety Executive is mandated by law to ensure workplaces are as safe as possible, so using specialist cabinets for storage will help you meet its stringent requirements.