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Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances campaign

04 June 2018

The HSM Campaigns Hub provides you with information on the latest health & safety initiatives. This issue, we look at a new EU-wide campaign launched by EU-OSHA that tackles the risks related to the exposure to dangerous substances in workplaces

Dangerous substances have featured on the EU occupational safety and health (OSH) policy agenda for many decades. In recent years, there have been high-profile cases of dangerous substances such as asbestos and vinyl chloride being banned or subject to strict control. This might have given rise to the misconception that the use of dangerous substances is declining. However, dangerous substances remain a major risk in workplaces. The extent of the problem is illustrated by the fact that occupational exposure only to carcinogenic substances still causes 80,000 deaths per year in the EU. Industries with high prevalence of dangerous substances include agriculture (62 %), manufacturing (52 %) and construction (51 %). 

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched its EU-wide Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances campaign (HWC 2018-19) aimed at fostering a prevention culture when dealing with dangerous substances at the workplace. The campaign also aims to promote techniques for the proper management of dangerous substances at work by disseminating practical tools and case studies. 

Backed up by the European institutions and their networks and the Presidencies of the Council of the EU, the campaign brings together a wide range of partners, including EU-OSHA's network of national focal points, official campaign partners, media partners and the Enterprise Europe Network. The campaign targets them, as well as a range of stakeholders, social partners, policy-makers, OSH professionals and the media. 

The HWC 2018-19 has five specific strategic objectives: 

  • to raise awareness of the widespread occurrence of dangerous substances at workplaces and the need to manage them;
  • to promote practical measures such as risk assessment, elimination and substitution, and the legal order of prevention measures;
  • to improve understanding of the risks linked to exposure to carcinogens;
  • to target groups of workers with specific needs and higher level of risks, including women, migrant or young workers;
  • to provide information on policy developments and relevant legislation. 

The campaign features two years of events and activities aimed at drawing attention to the issue, promoting the best ways of tackling the risks that dangerous substances pose to workers, as well as engaging stakeholders and creating opportunities to exchange good practices. These include the Good Practice Awards competition organised in cooperation with member states to recognise outstanding and innovative contributions to workplace safety and health, and the Healthy Workplaces Film Award, which honours the best documentary or animated film on work-related topics. The EU’s Roadmap on Carcinogens, to which EU-OSHA is a signatory, is also promoted throughout the campaign. 

Practical tools & guidance

A set of core campaign products have also been designed to raise awareness of the importance of managing dangerous substances at work and to help assess and manage these risks. These include a database of over 600 practical tools and guidance, developed by Member States, European institutions, business associations and social partners that helps enterprises to carry out comprehensive and effective risk assessments. It contains practical measures for workplaces, such as guidance on risk assessments and how to substitute or eliminate the use of dangerous substances, case studies and a variety of instruments.

A new multilingual and interactive e-tool on dangerous substances provides tailored support and advice on assessing and managing these risks specifically in micro and small enterprises. In addition, a campaign toolkit provides the resources needed to run an awareness-raising campaign on OSH. And a series of awareness-raising short movies featuring the cartoon character Napo educates about the basic principles of managing dangerous substances in an engaging and informal way. 

There are many ways in which to get involved in the campaign. In particular, EU-OSHA encourages sectoral social dialogue committees, policy-makers, large enterprises, sectoral federations and associations of small and medium-sized enterprises, European institutions and their networks, European non-governmental organisations, OSH professionals and their associations, the OSH research community, labour inspectorates and their associations and the media. Organisations with an interest in the campaign can raise awareness by disseminating the campaign materials, organise events and activities, use and promote the practical tools and apply for the campaign partnership. 

For more information please visit: https://healthy-workplaces.eu/