In many European workplaces workers are exposed to dangerous substances habitually. Overall 38% of European enterprises report potentially dangerous chemical or biological substances in their workplaces.
A dangerous substance is any solid, liquid or gas that could cause damage to the health or safety of workers. Exposure can occur through inhalation, ingestion or skin penetration.
This exposure is linked to health issues, including respiratory diseases, harm to inner organs like the brain and the nervous system, skin irritation and diseases and occupational cancers. Moreover, fire, explosion, acute poisoning and suffocation are the risks that workers are exposed due to the presence of dangerous substances.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched its 2018-19 EU-wide campaign, Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances with the aim of raising awareness of the need to eliminate exposure to dangerous substances and manage them where that is not possible.
To prevent diseases, injuries and deaths caused by dangerous substances in European workplaces, the implication of employers, managers and workers is so important and a prevention culture must be created, with the following topics:
- Raising awareness
- Risk assessment
- Practical tools and guidance
Eliminate or manage the exposure to dangerous substances is also important to the economic success of businesses and society, because of the occupational accidents caused by dangerous substances results in significant costs to businesses and health systems. For example, workplace exposure to carcinogens is estimated to cost 2.4 billion € in Europe each year.
The two-year campaign by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) will be marked by events and activities to draw attention to the impact of worker exposure to dangerous substances. The campaign promotes 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.