Hazardous substances can be a major threat to the health, safety and wellbeing of employees. It's vital they are properly trained and informed about potential hazards they face in their working day so they can handle any hazardous substances they come into contact with safely.
Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), employers need to prevent or limit their employees' exposure to hazardous substances. Making sure they're aware of the proper safety procedures around hazardous substances is a key part of this, helping workers to stay safe during their working lives and employers to stay on the right side of the law.
The Benefits of Hazardous Substances Training
Regardless of whether your company handles toxic chemicals daily or if you consider yourself at low risk for hazardous substances, employee training can have many positive effects on your staff and your business.
Safety – the most important duty any employer has towards their staff is to make sure they return home safe and sound at the end of their working day. When employees are informed of the possible dangers of substances they use during their work, they are more likely to follow the safety procedures in place, and less likely to endanger themselves and others through the improper handling of hazardous substances.
In an emergency such as a chemical spillage or a colleague ingesting a hazardous substance, every second counts. When staff are properly trained, they will know the correct way to handle the situation and improve the outcomes for everyone involved.
Legal compliance – COSHH is the most important piece of legislation dealing with hazardous substances in the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) takes breaches very seriously and prosecutes regularly. Legislation dealing with the transport of hazardous substances has also led to corporate prosecutions.
In 2015, two firms were charged after a lorry driver was directed to make a 12 mile journey despite his consignment of corrosive potassium hydroxide having leaked. The driver correctly informed his transport supervisor of the leak and asked that the emergency services be called, but was instead directed to drive to a nearby depot before assistance was requested. Along with this mistake, the laboratory that had loaded the van were using an inexperienced loader who hadn't packed a hazardous delivery before. It appears that extra training in both cases would have helped matters and perhaps avoided the dangers and £20,000 costs to the companies.
Financial benefits – put simply,good health and safety training makes good business sense.
Accidents involving hazardous substances can cause financial loss from damage to equipment or the shutdown of manufacturing and production facilities. Any perceived failure to ensure employees' wellbeing can cause bad publicity and make it harder to attract and retain employees in the future.
In late 2015, Capper Group Industrial Contractors Limited were fined £10,000 after an employee became "engulfed" in hot caustic lime dust and suffered chemical burns. The incident took place at the Tata Chemicals Europe Limited plant in Lostock. This incident, along with an accident at a different plant involving a fall from height, led to Tata being fined £349,850 with costs of £58,392. This illustrates the financial penalties that can come from the unsafe handling of hazardous substances in the workplace. An employer's duty of care extends to contractors and members of the public as well as their own employees.
An investment in quality training can stop these problems before they've begun by providing workers with a thorough grounding in the safe way to handle hazardous substances.
High Quality Hazardous Substance Training
There are many options available for training your staff in hazardous substances. Increasingly, employers are turning towards eLearning courses, attracted by the effectiveness of such methods, their value for money and their time efficiency when compared to alternative methods.
They increase employees' retention of the key facts – by up to six times, according to one study. They are also one of the least time-consuming ways to learn, allowing employees to cover the material at their own pace and return to any difficult subjects at their leisure. Refresher training, taken annually, is also easier to provide and keep track of.
Companies that effectively train their employees in the dangers and uses of hazardous substances are safer to work for and avoid negative personal, financial and legal repercussions. All organisations are subject to COSHH legislation, so good quality employee training in hazardous substances can have benefits across all sectors.