Chemical Agents Legislation

collectively known as the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001 to 2021, apply to any enterprise where hazardous chemical agents are used or generated.

(Note that the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations are UK Regulations and do not apply in Ireland).

ApplicationLegislation Signage

The enterprise does not have to be involved in the manufacture of a substance or mixture to come under the requirements of these Regulations. Once any hazardous substance is used or generated, for example, cleaning chemicals or welding, then the Regulations apply.

  • “chemical agent” means any chemical element or compound, on its own or admixed, as it occurs in the natural state or as produced, used or released, including release as waste, by any work activity, whether or not produced intentionally and whether or not placed on the market.
  • “activity” means any work in which chemical agents or hazardous chemical agents are used, or are intended to be used, in any process, including production, handling, storage, transport or disposal and treatment, or which result from such work.

Inventory and Risk Assessment

The employer must identify all the chemical agents at his/her place of work so a chemical inventory (List) is a good idea.

The risk assessments should be based on activities involving chemicals - the risk depends not only on the chemical or chemicals (many activities involve more than one) but also on how it is being stored, transported, used, generated or disposed of. 

Regulation Requirements

The Regulations lay down requirements to:

  • Determine the hazards (See Label, Safety Data Sheet, industry guidance), associated with the activity
  • Assess the risk to employees and others - what is the exposure? How much exposure? For how long? How often?
  • Put prevention and control measures in place following the risk assessment
  • Make arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies
  • Make arrangements for information, training and consulting their employees
  • Provide appropriate health surveillance
  • Keep exposure records

In the case of a new activity involving hazardous chemical agents, work shall not commence until after an assessment of the risk of that activity has been made and the preventive measures identified in the risk assessment have been implemented.

The Regulations enable the publication of an approved Code of Practice which lists occupational exposure limit values (OELV's) for about 700 chemical agents.