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News

New approach to good practice and exposure limits for chemicals

HSE InfoLine : 01 April, 2005  (Company News)
From 6 April, a new focus on good practice will help employers prevent their employees' health being harmed by the chemicals used in their workplace. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.
From 6 April, a new focus on good practice will help employers prevent their employees' health being harmed by the chemicals used in their workplace. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.

The existing requirements to follow good practice are being clarified and brought together by the introduction of eight principles in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (Amendment) Regulations 2004. Employers who do not follow these principles will not be properly protecting their employees.

Guidance on applying the principles will also be published on 6 April to help employers and in the coming months case studies illustrating good practice will be published on HSE's website.

In addition the regulations introduce a new, simpler occupational exposure limit system. Maximum Exposure Limits and Occupational Exposure Standards will be replaced with a single type of limit, the Workplace Exposure Limit. All the MELs, and most of the OESs, are being transferred into the new system as WELs and will retain their previous numerical values.

Michael Topping, Chair of the OEL Working Group of the Health and Safety Commission's Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances said:

'The new system is about clarifying existing duties, rather than introducing new ones. Therefore, employers who currently comply with COSHH will still be able to do so by continuing to apply good practice. However, small businesses in particular should benefit from the explicit emphasis on the need to follow good practice and the provision of good practice advice. This new approach will contribute to HSE's aim to reduce the burden of ill health caused by exposure to chemicals at work.'

Following consultation, HSC has agreed new limits for Refractory Ceramic Fibres and Subtilisins, which will come into force on 6 April.

As the numerical values of the other limits being transferred to the new system are unchanged, suppliers may exhaust stocks of safety data sheets that refer to MELs and OESs before producing new ones that refer to WELs. Similarly, COSHH assessments can be updated as part of duty holders' periodic reviews.
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