EU-OSHA Safety Awareness Campaign Emphasizes Dangerous Substances

May 11, 2018
EU Agency for Safety and Health at Work launches Europe-wide awareness-raising campaign on dangerous substances.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) launches its 2018-19 EU-wide campaign, Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances. The launch marks the start of two years of events and activities aimed at drawing attention to the issue and promoting the best ways of tackling the risks that dangerous substances pose to workers. The campaign raises awareness of all types of dangerous substances, not just the obvious ones, and emphasizes the importance of risk assessment in all sectors as the first step towards prevention. 

Contrary to widespread belief, the use of dangerous substances is not decreasing in the EU, according to the organization, and the need to manage the risks they pose is as pressing as ever. Some of the substances that workers are most commonly exposed to include carcinogens. 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. The new campaign aims to promote techniques for the proper management of dangerous substances in the workplace, such as risk assessment, elimination and substitution, by disseminating practical tools and case studies. It also focuses on groups of workers who are at particular risk.

“Many workers are unaware that not only manufactured chemical products that are labelled with risk and safety information can cause harm,” says Dr Christa Sedlatschek, EU-OSHA’s director. “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.”

Ideas and interventions that make an impact at workplace level are shared through the Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards. A range of materials have also been developed and made available through a multilingual website to support the campaign. An e-tool to effectively manage dangerous substances in the workplace is available in English and soon will be accessible in three country versions (Austria, Estonia and Romania); a database has been created of almost 700 practical tools and guidance documents from 11 member states, and case studies, infographics and animated short films starring the character Napo can be found on the campaign website. In addition, EU-OSHA is a partner of the Roadmap on Carcinogens, which aims to raise awareness of carcinogens in the workplace and the associated limit values and legislation, and to provide practical information on risk assessment and good practice examples for eliminating or managing risks.

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