European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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2 July 2019

Workers and chemicals: 15th ETUI seminar

photo news ETUI seminar on chemicals in Lisbon

The 15th annual ETUI seminar on chemicals and worker protection took place on 27-28 June 2019. Held in Lisbon in collaboration with the General Confederation of the Portuguese Workers (CGTP), the meeting brought together more than 40 unionists from 21 European countries. Its aim was to coordinate union action on chemical risks.

Attendees were able to re-discuss the prevention of risks related to asbestos, a still very much present risk in Europe due to the massive presence of its carcinogenic fibres in many private and public buildings.

The meeting also allowed participants to take stock of the three recent revisions of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) as well as of the actions needed for the ambitious national-level transposition of the new occupational exposure limits (OELs) for the carcinogens. The topic of the plastic-induced health crisis was also addressed, as was the use of bio-monitoring for protecting workers. The heated discussions on these topics will serve as a basis for defining a harmonised union position in these fields.

An expert from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) provided participants with information on the implementation of the REACH and CLP regulations, as well as on the new tasks assigned to the ECHA regarding the preparation of future OELs for workers. Following the disbandment of the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL), the Helsinki-based ECHA has now been mandated by the European Commission to draw up recommendations for OELs.

An expert from the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAUA) came to explain the REACH-related legislative initiative on restricting the use of diisocyanates to workers who have received specific training to use them in complete safety. Widely used in many different industrial sectors, these allergy-inducing substances are the cause of numerous cases of occupational diseases each year. On the table of European legislators for several months now, the proposal has provoked controversial discussions due to the possible duplication with existing provisions in OSH legislation.

Last but not least, as in every year a representative from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) gave an overview of what the agency was currently working on with regard to chemical risks and on recent initiatives: the launch of a research project to gather data on the exposure of European workers to carcinogens and a first stock-taking of the now-ending European campaign on the safe use of hazardous substances.

Photo Credit: Marko Palada

A selection of the presentations:

 

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