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What is COSHH?

COSHH stands for Control Of Substances that are Hazardous to Health

It is law that employers are required to control substances that are hazardous to health. You can prevent or reduce workers exposure to hazardous substances by:
  • Finding out what the health hazards are
  • Deciding how to prevent harm to health (risk assessment)
  • Providing control measures to reduce harm to health; making sure they are used
  • Keeping all control measures in good working order
  • Providing information, instruction and training for employees and others
  • Providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases
  • Planning for emergencies.

Most businesses use substances, or products that are mixtures of substances. Some processes create substances. These could cause harm to employees, contractors and other people. Sometimes substances are easily recognised as harmful. Common substances such as paint, bleach or dust from natural materials may also be harmful.

COSHH and what the symbols mean


A ‘toxic’ symbol warns that a substance can cause severe damage to health, even at low levels. It can be toxic or even fatal if the substance is swallowed, inhaled, or simply comes into contact with a person’s skin.

Serious Health Hazard

This symbol ‘Serious Health Hazard’ advises that contact with this substance could cause serious health issues or have long term effects on a person’s health. It can also mean that a substance can be fatal if it is ingested or inhaled.


A ‘flammable’ COSHH danger symbol advises that the substance or chemical that could ignite when triggered by certain conditions

Health Hazards

This symbol advises that this substance that may cause damage to health. This damage may occur if a substance is swallowed, inhaled, or comes into contact with a person’s skin.


An ‘oxidising’ COSHH sign advises that a substance has the potential to cause an exothermic reaction with another chemical.

Gas Under Pressure

This symbol ‘Gas under pressure’ advises that is a substance in gas form and it is stored in a container that is pressurized.


An ‘explosive’ COSHH label is used to signify that a substance has the potential to explode if placed under certain conditions.

Dangerous for the Environment

The COSHH warning sign for substances which can be hazardous to the environment signifies that they can be dangerous to one or more components of the environment if used or disposed of incorrectly. These effects can be immediate or can be slow acting.


The ‘Corrosive’ COSHH sign advises used to identify substances that can potentially corrode or chemically burn other substances and materials.

Please note - this guidance is general and provided without liability. For full certified training and instruction why not enroll on our complimentary COSHH training course today.