Control measures are always a mixture of equipment and ways of working to reduce exposure. The right combination is crucial. No measures, however practical, can work unless they are used properly. So, any ‘standard operating procedure’ should combine the right equipment with the right way of working. This means instructing, training and supervising the workers doing the tasks. The COSHH regulations will give information on the law behind COSHH control measures.
You need control measures that work and continue to work – all day, every day. The HSE state that the following control measures in order of priority are:
- Eliminate the use of a harmful product or substance and use a safer one.
- Examine the Safety data sheets under COSHH
- Use a safer form of the product, e.g. paste rather than powder.
- Change the process to emit less of the substance.
- Enclose the process so that the product does not escape.
- Extract emissions of the substance near the source.
- Have as few workers in harm’s way as possible.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, coveralls and a respirator. PPE must fit the wearer.
Control equipment comes in many forms. It includes ventilation to extract dust, mist and fume; glove boxes and fume cupboards; spray booths and refuges (clean rooms in dirty work areas). It also includes using water to reduce dust and systems for disinfecting cooling water.
For control equipment, your supplier should provide a ‘user manual’. If you don’t have one, ask for it. And if this is impossible, you may need professional help to write one. The user manual should set out schedules for checks, maintenance and parts replacement.
Once you have got control, you need to keep it. Employers must make sure that the control measures, including the equipment and the way of working, are kept working properly. You should name someone to be in charge of checking and maintaining control measures. It could be you, or someone you appoint, as long as they know what they need to do, and are able to do it. Two of the most common control measures where maintenance is critical are local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and PPE – personal protective equipment.