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COSHH Symbols, COSHH Assessments & COSHH Essentials

Updated: Apr 6


The symbols used on chemical products are there to help the end user identify the hazards associated with that particular chemical. They are actually pictograms which are designed to convey information instead of using written indication and instructions.


Pictograms are widely used throughout regulatory applications where they help convey mandatory warnings and prohibitory information that must be either processed quickly and/or where language barriers exist. These chemical pictograms are used not only in the UK but also across Europe and therefore need to be able to convey the information irrespectively of what the end user's first language is.


Road signs are a good example of where pictograms are used successfully to convey information relating to the road where the language of the road user is immaterial. However, training in what information these signs are conveying must be provided and is of course covered in the driving theory test.


The requirements for training to ensure that people understand the meaning of the chemical pictograms is also necessary as at first glance it is not always obvious as to what information is being conveyed.


Here is a short video on what each of the chemical symbols mean:

COSHH Assessments


Although knowledge of pictograms is important, in a workplace setting a full COSHH assessment is needed before tasks using chemicals can be undertaken.


A COSHH assessment is another form of a risk assessment where the hazards associated with the chemical being used are first identified. The hazards are identified using the 'Safety Data' sheet which should accompany any chemical. It is the chemical supplier's responsibility to provide the Safety Data sheet so if you don't have one you should request it directly from the supplier.


The COSHH assessment should be task based where you consider the exposure potential risk directly involved in the task that the chemical is being used in. You also need to consider the hierarchy of controls (see below) to assess possible ways of reducing any exposure risk.


COSHH Hierarchy of controls:

  • Eliminate the use of a harmful product or substance and use a safer one.

  • Use a safer form of the product, eg 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.

By working through the hierarchy of and applying appropriate controls you should be able to control the risks to the chemicals in the application the they are being used. Remember you must record your COSHH assessment and communicate it to those that need to know and make sure that they have the relevant training and competence to carry out the task safely.


There is a lot to consider when carrying out a COSHH assessment that we are not going to cover in this blog. However, a useful tool and resource for COSHH assessments is the Health and Safety Executives COSHH Essentials Guidance and COSHH Essentials Tool.


If you are unsure or have concerns on how to carry out a suitable COSHH assessment or would like to quantify the exposure to personnel then please give us a call, we happy to help!


How we can help


At Blue Turtle Ltd, we provide a range of services to help businesses of all types manage their workplace health hazards, including the quantification of personal exposure to assist in COSHH assessments.


Our experienced consultants can provide practical advice on how to achieve adequate control through process changes, improvements, or adopting/changing work practices to reduce the risk as low as reasonably practicable.


Whatever your Occupational Hygiene needs are, Blue Turtle Ltd is here to help your business protect your workforce and help you meet your legal obligations.


Give us a call today to discuss your needs or if you prefer, complete the online form with a brief outline of your business needs and/or concerns.


Blue Turtle - The missing cog in your business health!


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