No one must be put in unnecessary danger at work. Work-related accidents or ill health are not acceptable in any work environment and are mostly preventable. There is a wide range of work-related hazards that can pose a serious risk to employees’ health.

Risks associated with hazardous substances are also a leading cause of severe illnesses and deaths. Being an employer, you must ensure that the work activities within your workplace do not cause harm to the workers or staff members.

This blog post will explain in detail what employers and their staff need to know about hazardous substances and safe working practices at work.

What are Hazardous Substances?

The term ‘hazardous substances’ covers materials and products that pose a severe health risk to the workers working with or around them or could cause environmental damage. This includes any kind of material like solid, liquid, gas, vapors, or fumes. 

These hazardous substances could produce harm when inhaled, swallow, or absorbed into the skin. And can result in infections, injuries, or long-lasting health effects. 

Both employees’ health and safety must be the top priority of any employer or organization. It is seen that nearly 12,000 deaths occur in the year 2018-19 due to the contraction of occupational lung disease, the major reason for these injuries was hazardous substances mainly hazardous dust and chemicals, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Therefore, employers must have suitable control measures within their work environment to prevent their staff.

What Substances are Considered Hazardous Under COSHH?

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 or COSHH helps individuals understand what they need to know to work safely with hazardous chemicals and substances as well as comply with COSHH regulations.

The primary purpose of these regulations is to mitigate the chances of ill health or injuries occurring due to such dangerous chemicals.

The risk of harmful exposure can occur to any worker in any work environment, so these regulations are thorough and far-reaching in preventing the harm. 

Some common hazardous substances that come under COSHH regulations are:

  • Chemicals

Chemicals are used in numerous workplaces and industries. These substances require special handling to work safely with them. To ensure workers and staff members are protected when working with any kind of chemicals at work, employers must provide them with adequate training, proper PPE, and effective control measures to work competently.

  • Biological Agents

Biological agents like bacteria, viruses, or other diseases are also common issues considered hazardous. Chemical spills, blood, or other chemical fluids are considered extremely hazardous and require safe handling and disposal to keep the workers and anyone around them safe and secure.

  • Fumes & Dust

Hazardous fumes and dust are also common in various work areas like the construction sector or factories. When inhaled or swallowed can result in different chronic diseases to the lungs or overall health. Employers must invest in proper ventilation, PPE, and adequate training for the staff to ensure their safety.

Exposure to these harmful substances can result in various injuries including irritation to the skin, eye, or mouth, loss of consciousness, long-lasting health effects, and chronic lung diseases or cancer, and so must be protected with vital control measures.

Health Effects of Hazardous Substances 

Below are some major health issues due to exposure to hazardous substances:

  • Chronic

Long-term exposure to hazardous substances like hazardous dust can result in diseases like carcinogenic or lung cancer.

  • Acute

These types of illnesses develop easily and are identifiable as exposure to fumes

  • Systematic 

These types of ailments affect the overall body such as inhaled chemicals that can cause cancer

Ways to Deal with Hazardous Substances at Work

There are numerous ways employers can deal with exposure to hazardous substances to prevent their employees and workers. Some of these are:

  • Prevention

Prevention is the most effective way to minimize the risk of hazardous exposure. The best way employers can prevent their workers is by examining, reviewing, and conducting adequate COSHH risk assessment in their workplace to identify and prevent harm.

  • Reduction 

When hazardous substances cannot be removed from the workplace completely, employers must find other ways to either reduce the usage of the chemicals to perform the same task so the risk can be minimized or have proper preventive measures to ensure workplace safety. 

  • Training

Adequate training is also equally important to deal with the hazard that can cause harm at work. Employers who provide sufficient training, information, and guidance to their staff are likely to see reduced accidents, injuries, or ill health within their work environment than those who don’t offer the required training.


Working with hazardous chemicals and materials can be dangerous in any workplace or industry. Those in managerial positions have a legal duty to prevent those working with hazardous substances and chemicals. This blog post has covered in detail what you need to do to work safely with such materials.