Who is Responsible for Carrying out a COSHH Risk Assessment?


COSHH regulations stipulate that employers control substances that are hazardous to health. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advise that hazards are identified and the risks stemming from them are assessed. A COSHH assessment looks for hazards and risks created by substances in the workplace.


The HSE state that there are no particular qualifications required in order to complete a COSHH risk assessment but the person must be competent. A competent person, in this instance, must have the relevant skills, knowledge and practical experience and training to be able to assess the risks arising from work activities involving substances which are deemed hazardous to health.


A competent person should know how to:


1) Understand hazard and risk
2) Evaluate how the work can expose people to substances hazardous to health
3) Collect all the relevant information
4) Make the correct decisions in regard to control exposure


The competent person does not need to be an expert or consultant in COSHH, but is usually an employee within the company. A group of employees could also make up a ‘competent’ team with each member concentrating on their own specialism. However, it is important that the competent person recognises their own limitations and should know when to request expert advice from alternate sources.


It is the manager’s responsibility to decide who will become the relevant COSHH assessor in the workplace. There is no specific training course in the area of becoming ‘competent’ in COSHH. There are a number of courses that cover the basic principles of a risk assessment. The manager should analyse the employee’s work experience and training records before choosing the competent person. It may even be necessary to appoint someone initially on a trial run.


The minimum knowledge requirement is that the competent person should have a suitable understanding of the operations and substances being assessed. The main responsibility for the assessment and any controls implemented lies with the employer. Should legal action arise from the COSHH risk assessment then this would usually be taken against the employer as opposed to the competent assessor.


If the delegated person feels that they are unable to make a coherent and satisfactory assessment, then it is imperative that they notify their employer of this. If, nonetheless, they are still told to proceed with the assessment, then they should make sure that they make their objections clear and fully document them.


If you are unsure if your company has an obligation to comply with the COSHH regulations or you are unsure if any COSHH hazards exist in your organisation, please call our free confidential H&S helpline or download our free COSHH information pack http://www.nationalsafetycentre.co.uk/free-compliance-pack.html