Posted: May 9, 2018

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched a two-year campaign to help employers identify and manage the risks of dangerous substances to workers.

EU-OSHA director, Dr Christa Sedlatschek, speaking at the campaign’s launch

Workplace exposure to carcinogens alone is costing the EU economy €2.4bn (£2.1bn) in lost productivity due to worker absence and ill health. The European Commission has recently proposed to limit workers’ exposure to five cancer-causing chemicals, in addition to the 21 substances that have already been limited or proposed to be limited.

With nearly two-fifths (38%) of European businesses reporting potentially dangerous chemical and biological substances in their workplaces, the 2018-2019 EU-wide ‘Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances’ campaign aims to promote measures for their proper management.

EU-OSHA’s new multilingual website contains hundreds of materials to support the new campaign. They include factsheets on asbestos, construction dust, exhaust fumes, flour dust, chemicals, nanomaterials, tobacco smoke exposure and more. 

Its collection of practical tools and case studies focuses on risk assessment, elimination and substitution of dangerous substances, and also aims to increase awareness of developments in policy and legislation. 

IOSH’s ‘No Time to Lose’ campaign, the fourth phase of which was launched on 9 April, is listed under the website’s ‘practical tools and guidance’ tab.

Furthermore, employers can access a personalised to-do checklist, relevant legislation and recommendations for good practice by completing a chemical products questionnaire. 

Dangerous substances are most prevalent in sectors such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture. However, workers in all sectors could be exposed, putting them at risk of developing acute and long-term health issues such as occupational cancers, respiratory diseases, inner organ damage and skin irritation and diseases. 

Dr Christa Sedlatschek, EU-OSHA’s director, said: “Many workers are unaware that not only manufactured chemical products that are labelled with risk and safety information can cause harm. Other commonly used substances across all sectors – from working with flour in bakeries to silica dust on construction sites – can be hazardous if their use is not managed effectively. 

“Therefore, our campaign raises awareness of all types of dangerous substances, not just the obvious ones, and emphasises the importance of risk assessment in all sectors as the first step towards prevention.”

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