Water - Under The COSHH
How does water fit in under the COSHH regulations and how does it influence the health and safety of your workplace, workforce and building?
Firstly, let’s have a quick look at the COSHH regulations.
COSHH is an acronym for The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health and has formed an integral part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 as COSHH is the LAW that requires employers and landlords to control substances that are hazardous to health.
What substances are hazardous to health? Substances can take many forms and include:
· products containing chemicals
· gases and asphyxiating gases and
· biological agents. If the packaging has any of the hazard symbols then it is classed as a hazardous substance.
· germs that cause diseases such as leptospirosis or legionnaires disease and germs used in laboratories.
Now let’s take a look at water, you know the good old H2O!
Water (chemical formula H2O) is an inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odourless, and nearly colourless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosphere and the fluids of all known living organisms (in which it acts as a solvent). It is vital for all known forms of life, even though it provides neither food, energy, nor organic micronutrients.
Already from the paragraph above we have identified water as a chemical so should we do a COSHH assessment on the water supply?
Let’s look further down the list, vapours & mists. Water can take both of these forms under the right conditions so should we do a COSHH assessment on the water supply?
I’m going to skip biological agents for now and come back to it, germs that cause diseases such as leptospirosis or legionnaires disease and germs used in laboratories. As we have stated earlier water is vital to all forms of life and this is true to micro-organisms too also known as biological agents.
Let’s focus on legionnaires disease. Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia — lung inflammation usually caused by infection. It's caused by a bacterium known as legionella. Most people catch Legionnaires' disease by inhaling the bacteria from water aerosol (mist). In some cases, legionnaires disease can be fatal. So, should we do a COSHH assessment on the water supply?
If the water that came out of your tap had a hazard symbol stating that it could contain a biological agent, would you want the risk to have been considered? Would you want control measures to have been implemented? Of course, you would! And even more importantly of course it should.
Are self-employed persons such as plumbers taking adequate steps to ensure their safety by carrying out a COSHH assessment on the water system before working on it? I would ‘hazard’ a guess at no!
As you can see water is little bit more complex than a typical chemical as under normal circumstances it is harmless. There are specific guidance documents for controlling legionella bacteria in your water supply which are available free of charge from the HSE website.
Should the Legionella/Water risk assessment be consulted before someone works on your site like with the asbestos register to ensure their safety?
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If you require any further information or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us here at EVIRISK LTD we are more than happy to help.