06th Jan, 2021 Read time 6 minutes

What are the changes for COSHH in 2021?

The UK’s departure from the EU has raised a lot of questions in the world of health and safety in regards to both best practice and compliance. COSHH ( Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) is a key part of health and safety legislation that works to safeguard employees and other stakeholders from hazardous substances. 

With the UK now having left the EU at the end of the transition period with a free-trade deal, what does that mean for the COSHH regulations going forward? Here we take a look. 


What COSHH legislation is set to change? 

From the 1st of January 2021, Businesses now have to face new rules and there could be changes for health and safety coming up. The chemical legislation currently enforced in the UK was adopted from the EU, and this is likely to continue into the future given the deal announced between the EU and UK governments. 

In terms of changes to the COSHH legislation, there are 3 areas to look at. 

  • The main COSHH Regulations 2002 
  • The Classification, Labeling and Packaging Regulation
  • The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation

As COSHH was developed under the Health and Safety at Work act 1974, they are domestic legislation that has been updated in accordance with changes to laws from the EU. 


Will COSHH change after Brexit? 

Despite the relationship between COSHH and the EU legislation, the COSHH regulations are not likely to see a significant change in 2021 and the future. However, as some parts of COSHH are dependent on EU legislation, there may be minor changes further down the line

The only exception to the rule is in Northern Ireland, which is governed by its own COSHH legislation and under the Northern Ireland Protocol will still answer to EU chemical legislation. 

What does my company need to do in 2021? 

The changes in UK law that are now in place after Brexit means there are a few changes businesses will need to make in order to stay compliant with COSHH and other chemical-related legislation. Here we break down the changes and what your business needs to do. 


Changes to Classification, Labelling, and Packaging (CLP)

The EU CLP regulations align with the Globally Harmonised System (GHS). 

In 2021 businesses will have to comply with the new GB CLP regulation in Great Britain, if they place chemicals in the British market. 

What businesses need to do: 

  • British based companies that supply chemicals in the GB market will answer to the HSE, not the ECHA ( European Chemicals Agency)
  • Companies that deal with chemicals in the GB market will need to notify the new GB CLP agency of the classification and labeling of the substances. More can information can be found from the HSE Executive 
  • Companies operating in Great Britain will need to classify and label substances in accordance with GB mandatory classification and labeling (GB MCL)
  • Users and distributors of chemicals downstream from the EU and EEA are now classified as importers 
  • For chemical exporters, the EU and EEA importer is required to fulfill the classification, labeling, and packaging for goods exported from Great Britain 

It is worth reinforcing that these legislative changes do not apply to Northern Ireland



Prior Informed Consent (PIC)

With the end of the transition period, there is now a GB Prior Informed Consent (PIC) regulatory regime. This is based on the current EU regime but will operate independently of the old system.

What businesses need to do: 

  • Companies will still report to the HSE Executive as Britain’s Designated National Authority (DNA), and any who import or export from Great Britain will need to comply with the new GB PIC system. 
  • The current EU PIC REgulation will continue to apply in Northern Ireland 
  • Exporters and importers must now include details of the quantities of chemicals exported or imported from the EU. Information on other countries will also need to be submitted to the HSE in the first quarter of future years 



Businesses working with biocides

With the transition period over, a new regulatory framework has been put in place in Great Britain for biocidal products. Whilst it is based on the EU framework, the new GB framework for Biocidal Products will operate independently. 

What businesses need to know: 

  • Applying for approval for a biocidal product or active substance authorized in the EU, EEA, and Switzerland will continue submission to the ECHA (European Chemicals Agency)
  • Applying for approval for a biocidal product or active substance in Great Britain will need to submit for approval from the HSE Executive 

With the new functions the HSE Executive is taking on, new processes and systems will likely be introduced and businesses in Great Britain will need to follow the new rules. As always, separate rules are now applicable in Northern Ireland



Businesses working with pesticides and plant protection products

Since the end of the transition period on the 1st of January 2021, a new independent pesticides regulatory regime has been set up in Great Britain. 

Further decisions taken by the EU regime will no longer apply in Great Britain (Excluding Northern Ireland) and this includes active substance and maximum residue level (MRL) decisions, in addition to new EU PPP legislation.

What businesses need to do: 

  • New applications for active substance approvals, PPP authorizations, and MRLS will continue to be submitted to the HSE Executive. 
  • For accessing GB, NI, and EU markets: authorization or amendments may be required under both the GB and EU pesticides regimes. The applicants can be based in any country 
  • The EU PPP legislation continues to apply in Northern Ireland as under the previous transition period 



The EU REACH Regulation has now been brought into law in the UK under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. The related legislation will be replicated in the UK and altered where necessary so that it can apply in a domestic context. 

What businesses need to do: 

  • Companies operating out of Northern Ireland will need to comply with the previous EU REACH Regulation, while those in GB must comply with the new UK REACH regulation in the GB market 




How do companies make sure they are COSHH Compliant in 2021? 

COSHH and the auxiliary chemical legislations are likely to have a few subtle changes in 2021, but there is plenty of up to date information that can be found on the UK Government and Health and Safety Executive Website.

Beyond staying updated with any new guidance or best practice, ensuring you have a basic understanding of some of the basic principles of COSHH through symbols and COSHH risk assessments will help you stay compliant. 

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