When people talk about COSHH sheets they may mean one of three things:
- A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) also called a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) sent by your supplier to tell you about the substances you have bought.
- A sheet you can use to record information extracted from your SDSs.
- A sheet that records your COSHH assessment.
So what kind of COSHH sheet do you need? Let’s have a look at the different types in more detail, and let’s start calling them by their proper names.
Safety data sheets.
Your suppier has to send these to you when you by substances (products such as chemicals, paints, detergents, etc). They have to send them to you when first buy the product and when there is any change of information. They can send this information on paper or electronically. It’s not good enough for them to tell you to look on their website, but to my mind it’s acceptable for them to send you a link to the specific SDS. The SDS sheet will give you information about the properties and the hazards of the substances. As more SDSs change to the REACH/CLP type, they will also give you information on how to control exposure.
Chemical or substance register.
Many people spend far too much time pulling information out of the SDS and recording it. Often they believe this is required by the COSHH Regulations; it is not. If you are using a large number of substances, it may be worth your recording information about them in a way that you can manipulate; perhaps in a database or on a spread sheet. What could you record? It depends on what you need the information for: think what questions you or others may ask. For each substance you may want to record where and for what it is used, the hazard (R-Phrase or hazard statement), other properties such as powder/liquid, and non-COSHH information such as fire risk and first aid procedures.
COSHH assessment sheets.
COSHH assessments are about how substances are used, how they may affect workers, and what you plan to do about it. This is what is required by the COSHH Regulations, not a list of chemicals. To help you carry out a COSHH assessment, you may want to devise your own COSHH risk assessment sheet. There is no set format and no specifically required information. You may need two types of sheets: one to make notes on as you inspect work tasks and record your first thoughts; one to store your completed COSHH assessment.
You can read more about COSHH assessment, SDSs and substance registers elsewhere in this blog.