Current Size: 100%
My employer gives us gloves. Is that enough?
No. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (COSHH), gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks should only be used as a last resort.
The Regulations expect employers to use a 'hierarchy of controls', which means that in the first instance your employer should:
- change the work process to eliminate the chemical;
- substitute the chemical for a safer one;
- protect you from exposure to it by enclosing the process; and
- provide adequate ventilation.
Only then should your employer rely on PPE to prevent exposure.
For certain chemicals, the law sets a limit on the amount you should be exposed to. These chemicals and their workplace exposure limits (WELs) are listed in Health and Safety Executive booklet EH40. Whether or not a chemical is listed in EH40 depends on whether enough is known about its effects to set an exposure limit, so there are many substances not listed in EH40 that are also harmful to your health.
Special requirements apply to your employer if you use lead, asbestos or chemicals that cause cancer (called 'carcinogens').
Good hygiene is important if you work with chemicals. You should not eat, drink or smoke in areas where chemicals are used (smoking is now banned in enclosed public places in the UK), and you should always wash your hands after leaving the area.