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When you carry out Risk assessments, these are not just a paperwork exercise. They are about taking sensible steps to prevent ill health. You need to know how workers are exposed, and to how much, before you can decide if you need to do anything to reduce their exposure. 

The COSHH Regulations require employers to assess the risk to their employees, and to prevent or adequately control those risks. Sometimes, it’s easy to judge the amount of exposure to substances and decide what you can do about it. When a work task involves very small amounts of harmful material, maybe when there is little chance of it escaping, the risk could be low. But the risk in a different task, such as cleaning up and disposal it may be higher because the harmful substance may now be breathed in or get onto the skin. 

When the task involves larger amounts of material, with obvious leaks, exposure is higher and so is the risk. Whether the substance is harmful or not, your need to control it is obvious. Decide what measures you need to take, and when. If you have five or more employees, you must record your assessment but, even if you have fewer than five, it makes sense to write down what steps you have taken to identify the risks. And the really important part is making a list of the actions you are taking to control the risks to health. You can look at examples of risk assessments for different industries on the hse website. 

HSE has developed a free internet tool for identifying good control practice: www.coshh-essentials.org.uk It covers a wide range of processes and activities and also produces advice for products that have safety data sheets. However, there may be no ‘good practice’ advice available for your work process. Where your work process is small-scale with obvious control measures, you can do the assessment yourself. In other cases, or where you are not sure, ask your supplier, trade association or other professional information sources.