This brochure is an introductory guide to the Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2018-19, ‘Healthy
Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances’, organised by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the risks posed by dangerous substances in the workplace and to promote a culture of risk prevention to eliminate and, where that is not possible, effectively manage these risks.
About the campaign
Dangerous substances have been on the OSH policy agenda in the EU and in Member States for
decades. Nonetheless, it is an area of workplace safety and health where awareness of the variety
of possible risks and ways to tackle them is still low.
One common misunderstanding is that only manufactured chemicals — or even chemicals that have a strong smell or immediately apparent dangerous effects — are dangerous substances. Many dangerous substances that workers are exposed to, such as diesel engine exhaust emissions, welding fumes and dusts, are generated by work processes.
Others, such as asbestos, crude oil and grain dust come from natural sources. Equally, some food constituents or pharmaceutical products may also present risks to workers.
These dangerous substances may not be labelled with hazard symbols, and information from safety data sheets required by chemicals legislation may not be available. Therefore, in these cases, employers will have to seek other sources of information such as sectoral guidance or safety and health instructions from suppliers.
Again, awareness of the risks posed by these substances may be low. Another widely held but incorrect belief is that the use of dangerous substances has decreased. It is true that many well-known harmful exposures (e.g. to PCB, asbestos and mercury) have been significantly reduced owing to political initiatives, legislation, public pressure and measures from enterprises and social partners.
As a result, there is a clear need to raise awareness of the prevalence of dangerous substances, the importance of managing them properly and the best methods for doing so. The
Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2018-19 aims to meet that need. Furthermore, carrying out effective risk assessments of workplace exposures to dangerous substances can seem complicated, as it is regarded as a relatively complex subject.
There is a great variety of guidance available to support enterprises in managing dangerous substances. However, the volume of material and the range of sources can leave those responsible for managing the risks uncertain about where best to look for guidance. Therefore, the campaign aims to improve access to and awareness of the most relevant and widely applicable practical solutions and guidance, as well as disseminating examples of good practice.