What is the difference between a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and a COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) risk assessment?  An MSDS gives you information about the hazardous product; whereas the COSHH assessment describes what control measures are needed and how you are going to use the product safely.

COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health and to prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances.

The information you need to write your COSHH risk assessment is available in the Material Safety Data Sheet. MSDS (or SDS) can be obtained from the manufacturer or supplier of the chemical or product.  Most can now be downloaded from company websites. Under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations these must be provided for each hazardous product.

An MSDS on its own is not a COSHH risk assessment.  It should be used to find out what the health hazards are.  You can then set out how you are going to prevent harm to health and what control measures are needed to reduce harm to health.

First of all the COSHH assessment will set out what the hazards are. Then you can set out how you are going to control them.  Often this can simply be with the use of good ventilation and PPE.  The COSHH assessment will give you exposure limits, spillage containment and disposal requirements.  In addition it will also advise you on what first aid measures should be taken in case of exposure.

In addition to writing a COSHH assessment you need to make sure that the control measures in the assessment are used.  That they are in good working order (e.g. PPE).  And above all that everyone who comes in contact with the substance is provided with the correct information, instruction and training.  If necessary, you may need to provide monitoring and health surveillance.  You also need to plan for emergencies.

More information is available on the HSE website here https://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/index.htm

If you need help with your COSHH assessments, please get in touch as we can assist you with writing these.