Social Studies

Health issues

Many materials or substances used or created at work could harm your health. These substances could be dusts, gases or fumes that you breathe in, or liquids, gels or powders that come into contact with your eyes or skin. There could also be harmful micro-organisms present that can cause infection, an allergic reaction or are toxic.

Harmful substances can be present in anything from paints and cleaners to flour dust, solder fume, blood or waste. Ill health caused by these substances used at work is preventable. Many substances can harm health but, used properly, they almost never do.

Examples of harmful substances



Gases or fumes, including cigarette smoke


Gels or powders

Stale or expired foods and drugs

Impure water

Effects of Harmful Substances on Humans

What are the hazards? Some substances can cause asthma or other diseases, including cancer. Many can damage the skin, and some can cause serious long-term damage to the lungs.

The effect can be immediate, such as dizziness or stinging eyes, or can take many years to develop, such as lung disease. Many of the long-term or chronic effects cannot be cured once they develop.

It can cause ill health

It can lead to death

It may lead to permanent deformity

It may affect normal growth

Ways of preventing intake of harmful substance

What do I have to do? The law requires you to adequately control exposure to materials in the workplace that cause ill health. This is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) and means:

identifying which harmful substances may be present in the workplace

deciding how workers might be exposed to them and be harmed

looking at what measures you have in place to prevent this harm and deciding whether you are doing enough

providing information, instruction and training

in appropriate cases, providing health surveillance

Leave in a clean and healthy environment

Choose healthy lifestyle

Avoid smoking or smoking areas

Ensure your foods are well preserved and cooked before eating

Expired food and drinks should be disposed off immediately

Check expiry date of everything you consume


Define Harmful substance?

List FIVE examples of harmful substances?

Mention THREE effect of harmful substance?

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