Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need to do a COSHH risk assessment?

  1. You need a COSHH risk assessment if you are using, creating or producing a substance within your workplace that is hazardous to health.
  2. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health.

The HSE website provides practical advice and Guidance on the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. You can find information on what the law requires, and advice on completing COSHH assessments.



How do I carry out a COSHH risk assessment?

  1. Gather information about the hazardous properties of the substances, the work, and the working practices (or find out what the problems are) Use the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that are issued from the supplier of the substance you are using.
  2. Evaluate the risks to health.
  3. Decide on the necessary control measures to comply with Regulations 7-13 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health.
  4. Record the assessment.
  5. Decide on a review date.

The HSE publication “Working with Substances Hazardous to Health: A brief guide to COSHH” contains useful information. The publication is available here.


What template do I use for a COSHH risk assessment?

The HSE has produced a useful template and example risk assesments can be found here.

Please ensure you read the guidance notes at the end of the template before completing the COSHH risk assessment.



Where do I get the information to put on the COSHH risk assessment?

The information relating to the substance you are using will be on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

MSDS are provided by all manufacturers for products that may have any adverse effects.

These effects may be things like occupational dermatitis caused by continued exposure to cement or engine cleaning fluids, or it could be brick or flour dust causing asthma.

If the Material Safety Data Sheet did not come when you ordered the substance, you will need to contact the supplier of the substance and request that one be sent.

Information a Material Safety Data Sheet will contain:

  • Who makes it, their contact details in case you need to have any more information in an emergency
  • If it is flammable, and what sort of extinguishers you may need.
  • How it is hazardous, whether it is hazardous to you, or to the environment etc.
  • If there is a recommended work place exposure time.
  • What first aid provision may be required?

A free copy of the Work Place Exposure Limits from the HSE is available here.


How often do I need to review my COSHH risk assessment?

The assessment must be reviewed immediately if:

  1. There is any reason to suppose that the original assessment is no longer valid.
  2. Any of the circumstances of the work should change significantly and especially one which may have affected employees exposure to a hazardous substance.
  3. Periodic reviews must be completed by a competent person to ensure the risk assessment remains suitable and sufficient.

The date of the review of the COSHH risk assessment will depend on type of risk, the work activities, and the employer’s judgement on the likelihood of changes occurring.

Can I use a material safety data sheet, instead of completing a COSHH risk assessment?

No, as it will not be specific to your workplace and cannot take into account the particular environment you work in.

A good material safety data sheet (MSDS) is not a substitute for carrying out and recording a COSHH risk assessment. 

Gathering MSDSs is only the first stage in the assessment process.

More information on working with hazardous substances, can be here.

It is important to remember that some substances arise from processes and have no safety data sheet. Examples include fume from welding or soldering, mist from metalworking, dust from quarrying, gases from silage.


BESA members have access to a free dedicated health and safety helpline. For all of your health and safety questions contact one of our BESA representatives on 01768 860452.