What does the Health and Safety Executive do for you?


Prior to Britain leaving the European Union, chemical regulation in the United Kingdom was handled by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Now that the Brexit transition period has ended, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the primary agency to oversee all things chemical in Great Britain.

Take note that the HSE does not accept poisons centre notifications (PCNs) for the UK, like ECHA does for EU Members. Instead, PCNs are handled by the newly established National Poisons Information Service, a division of the UK Health Security Agency. However, the HSE is there to assist with many other aspects of chemical safety, evaluation, and regulation. Read on to find out more.


Standing for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and restriction of CHemicals, UK REACH is the primary framework to regulate chemicals and dangerous goods on the market in Great Britain. The HSE is the enforcing body of UK REACH, providing policy updates and guidance to chemical manufacturers and distributors. The regulation has been adapted from EU REACH and was put into effect from 1 January 2021. Be aware that EU REACH continues to apply to Northern Ireland under the NI Protocol. 

All businesses who manufacture or sell hazardous goods in Great Britain are beholden to UK REACH regulations and the HSE.
All businesses who manufacture or sell hazardous goods in Great Britain are beholden to UK REACH regulations and the HSE.


GB-CLP is Great Britain’s primary regulation covering the Classification, Labelling, and Packaging of substances, to ensure that dangerous goods are properly identified and stored—just like the EU-CLP in the European Union. The HSE manages CLP registrations, as well as receive information to support new or revised mandatory classification and labelling proposals. Chemwatch’s 30+ years of expertise can support you with HSE regulatory requirements, as well as provide solutions for SDS authoring and substance labelling to remain compliant with CLP.

The HSE maintains the GB Mandatory Classification and Labelling List (GB MCL List) to determine what substances require what labelling and packaging to be compliant. The list contains over 4000 entries, and includes the chemical name, CAS no., EC no., hazard classification, labelling requirements, and specific concentration limits (if applicable).

GB-based manufacturers, importers, and downstream users must make a GB MCL proposal if there is evidence of a change in classification of priority hazard classes. Namely, carcinogenicity (Category 1A, 1B or 2), germ cell mutagenicity (Category 1A, 1B or 2), reproductive toxicity (Category 1A, 1B or 2), or respiratory sensitisation (Category 1). 


COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health and is a code of practice enforced by the HSE to minimise the health risks associated with hazardous goods. Control measures are informed by any potential exposures or risks that could be hazardous to human health within your specific workplace—from office work to boat building. A safety data sheet alone is not sufficient for a COSHH assessment. The realities of everyday work must also be considered.

Personal protective equipment is often seen as the simplest way to control risk, but not the most effective if a hazard could be changed or removed entirely.
Personal protective equipment is often seen as the simplest way to control risk, but not the most effective if a hazard could be changed or removed entirely.

The HSE provides recommendations and guidelines for the most effective ways of controlling hazardous substances in workplaces. This includes how to find information about different substances, routes of exposure, as well as the best ways to assess risk and control the exposure. You can find the HSE’s step-by-step guide to COSHH here

Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances

The evaluation of substances is a vital part of risk management. The HSE Science and Research Centre has over 1000 research reports documenting government-funded studies to classify chemicals and substances that may be hazardous to people or the environment. 

Along with doing their own research and evaluation, the HSE has published over 100 guides covering Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances, or MDHS. These methods allow businesses and individuals to determine concentrations of heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, dust particles, and more in workplaces. In addition to MDHS, the HSE has published many other documents covering safe handling of common hazardous chemicals, including benzene, cadmium, and arsenic.

Biocidal Products Regulation

Biocides are products which are used to control or kill harmful organisms in a chemical manner, such as pesticides, disinfectants, and anti-microbial products. The HSE can advise distributors and consumers about biocide regulatory law, market authorisation and approval, safe use of biocides, and what to do in case of indecent or exposure to any harmful substances.

The HSE maintains the GB Article 95 List, which is a complete list of the active substance/product type combinations that are permitted to be used in biocidal products on the market in Great Britain. It was adapted from the ECHA Article 95 List, but has diverged as of 1 January 2021.

Chemwatch United Kingdom

Not sure where to start? Chemwatch provides personalised training and a direct customer service line to its UK customers, covering all of your chemical regulation needs and adhering to all HSE guidelines. Contact us today for help regarding your chemical labelling, Risk Assessment, SDS management, and more! You can also email us directly at UK*****@ch*******.net.


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