Coshh Assessments

Coshh Assessments are not Material Safety Data Sheets.

I can tell you that health and safety advisors do get frustrated with the misconception about Coshh Assessments.  I have personally had subcontractors argue with me that a material safety data sheet is all they have to legally provide.

What is a coshh assessment?
If you are unsure why a Material Safety Data Sheet is not a Coshh Assessment…read on


The legally provide discussion is also a regular part of Health and Safety life.  To be brief, if a company says they want a document, it doesn’t matter if it is a legal requirement or not,  they want that document!! And they will give the work to the subcontractor that provides said document, not the subcontractor that argues about legalities!


Anyway, the legal requirement for CoSHH Assessments is this…

Regulation 6 – The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations:

Assessment of the risk to health created by work involving substances hazardous to health

(1)    An employer shall not carry out work which is liable to expose any employees to any substance hazardous to health unless he has—

(a) made a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk created by that work to the health of those employees and of the steps that need to be taken to meet the requirements of these Regulations; and

(b) implemented the steps referred to in sub-paragraph (a).

Regulation 6 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health  Regulations goes on to explain in detail the requirements upon the employer.

What is a Material Safety Data Sheet?

example of an MSDS

A Material Safety Data Sheet is not easy to understand

Often referred to as an MSDS, it’s a technical document that the manufacturer of the product is legally obliged to supply to the purchaser so that they understand the properties of the chemical.  A MSDS typically includes:

  • Workplace Exposure Limits to each chemical in the product

  • Hazard Classification information

  • Personal Protective Equipment to be worn when using the product

  • Fire fighting information

  • First Aid instructions

  • Environmental release instructions

There is more information, but those are the most important for undertaking a coshh assessment.

Finding MSDS

The manufacturer usually has the Material Safety Data Sheet available for download from their website.

Good suppliers provide a copy of the sheet with the product when it is bought, but good suppliers are few and far between.  A link to the material safety data sheet section of the manufacturers website is usually printed on the invoice or delivery note.

If the MSDS can’t be found, then the manufacturer must be contacted and one requested.  It must also have been updated within the last 5 years.

The Coshh Assessment

A Coshh Assessment is visual and easy to understand

The difference between a material safety data sheet and a coshh assessment is the ease of understanding.

While a material safety data sheet is technical and long, a coshh assessment should deliver the information in a quick, easy to understand way.

Coshh symbol download

Click to Download Your Coshh Glossary

Coshh assessments also need to be compliant with current labelling regulations.  In the UK, the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulations have recently been updated.  The familiar orange and black squares have been replaced with white diamonds with a red border and a black picture.


You can download our super useful, Coshh Assessment Glossary here which has the current CLP compliant symbols, exposure guidelines and Personal Protective Equipment Symbols.  It’s an excellent starting point to speed up your Coshh Assessments.

Communicating Coshh Assessments

As with all risk assessments, coshh assessments must be available to all individuals exposed to the substance.

In addition, coshh assessments must be readily available in case of Fire or in the event that an exposed individual needs first aid.

Next Steps

Obtain the Material Safety Data Sheet for the Product

Download our Coshh Assessment Glossary

Use the template provided in the Risk Assessment Module of the Practical Safety Managers Course

OR if you are creating your coshh assessment form yourself, remember you need to communicate all the vital information of the MSDS in

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Legally Compliant format