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  • Dale Allen

UK companies are breaking the law using Safety Data Sheets as COSHH assessments

Updated: May 4, 2020

I was digging through the results of a new survey I put together a while ago.

The survey was called 'Is your business compliant with chemical safety law? (COSHH)'.

Why did I do it?

I wanted to know what areas of chemical safety people are struggling with.

Over the week I collected answers to 14 COSHH related multiple choice questions.

I couldn't believe what I was reading! (their answers were shocking)

Anyway, 230 people completed the survey in full.

Alarmingly though, 414 started it.

The questions had answers that assessed the compliance of the person's business based on the principles of The Health and Safety Executive's COSHH regulations.

To tell you the truth, the survey was completely flawed (more on this later...).

It became evident that one simple misunderstanding on their part could lead to a huge breach in safety.

And worse still, I belief that they were doing the right thing!

So where was it my survey was flawed?

I decided to check through the people that had scored a compliance pass.

Everything was looking great, I have a habit of working from finish to start (as in backwards).

It was only when I got to the answers to the question...

"4. How do you create your COSHH assessments?"

I spotted that some people had chosen the answer...

"We use Safety Data Sheets as our COSHH assessments (COSHH Sheets)"

Holy shit. Really?!

And even worse still, my survey (here's the flaw) told the people who gave this answer...

"Congratulations, you are compliant!"

Oh no! How on earth?

Well, the survey weighted the outcome based on how many answers they got correct.

So if the majority they got right, they got the thumbs up.

What it should have done is immediately tell them:

Now, are you ready for this...?

Alarmingly 23.33% of the people that took the survey, chose this answer.

Yep, that's about a quarter of the UK that are potentially breaking the law.

I might be jumping to conclusions but history shows that averages have a habit of being the average.​​

What needs to be done is to create a risk assessment from the Safety Data Sheet information as shown in the example below:

create a risk assessment from the Safety Data Sheet information, do not use a safety data sheet as a COSHH assessment

If you're worried about making chemical safety or COSHH mistakes, you can take the new COSHH Risk Assessor Certification™.

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