UmdL concurs with the ” World Day for Safety and Health at Work“, supported also by International Labour Organization (ILO).
On April 28th, all the World promotes the prevention of diseases and injuries at work and, in many countries, this date is also the International Workers’ Memorial Day.
Everywhere there are lots of events planned for this important campaign (in Italy, for example, there are a lot of activities for the victims of Asbestos).
Like every year this is a golden opportunity to spread knowledge and to involve everybody on the importance of prevention.
This year the theme for the” 2014 World Day for Safety and Health at Work” is “Safety and health in the use of chemicals at work“.
Shown below there is a brief summary of the Report 2014 Safety and health in the use of chemicals at work for this event.
What is a chemical?
- According to the ILO Convention on safety in the use of chemicals at work, 1990 (No. 170), the term “chemical” refers to chemical elements and compounds and their mixtures, whether natural or synthetic, such as those obtained through production processes.
- Hazardous chemicals are classified according to the type and degree of their inherent health and physical hazards. The hazardous properties of mixtures composed of two or more chemicals are determined by assessments based on the inherent hazards of their component chemicals.
Therefore, chemicals, both chemical elements and chemical mixtures, beyond all undeniable and necessary positive properties for humans, can present risks and hazards in their production, handling, storage, transport, disposal and treatment of waste. Many chemical products are used both in workplaces and everyday activities. Harmful effects are determinated in addition to the inherent hazards of chemicals also by the amount and the time of exposure (acute or chronic toxicity).
Some examples of chemical substances groups widely used:
Pesticides can cause toxic effects among workers responsible for production, handling (also in household activities) and treatment of residues (with also potentially adverse ecological effects for the environment and for consumers of food products).
Therapeutic substances (such Pharmaceuticals) can determine adverse health effects in workers exposed while producing and handling waste disposal.
Cleaning products can adversely affect those involved in production, who work with the products or are exposed to them daily and they can be dangerous for the enviroment.
Potencially adverse health and ecological effects of nanomaterials produced by industrial nanotechology process need an in-depth analysis.
Indeed, chemicals, in addition or as an alternative to adverse health effects (such as carcinogenity, toxicity or sensitization), can present also physical hazards (like flammability and high risk pf explosion) and ecological hazards (such as widespread contamination and toxicity for acquatic life).
Adverse effects of this substances against environment are well known and critical situations are pollutants abatement, disposal and treatment of waste as well as prevention of industrial accidents.
These fatal events occurred sometimes in the past. About 30 years ago, 3 December of 1984, in Bophal, India, over 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas was released as a result of an unintended chemical reaction in a plant. Up to 25,000 people total died as a result of exposure. This tragedy was due to the lack of basic Prevention and Safety at work.
A systematic review published by WHO (Knowns and unknowns on burden of disease due to chemicals: a systematic review) showed that in 2004, globally, due to exposure to chemicals, there were 4.9 million deaths (8.3% of total) and 86 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) (5.7% of total), in addition to elevated economic losses. However, probably this data underestimate real negative effects.
Different national and international Organizations annually provide and review the Occupational exposure limit values (OEL) for chemicals. Among the others there are the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the German Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA) with a database (named GESTIS) that includes many of the OELs recommended or required around the world.
The ILO Convention on safety in the use of chemicals at work, 1990 (No. 170) planned the development of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), under the active supervision of United Nations (UN), for making uniform globally the classification of the health, physical and environmental hazards, the hazard statements and the related hazard pictograms. The GHS requires for each substance (both compound and mixure) the in-depth Safety Data Sheet (SDS) with 16 information points and the International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSC) with 12 information points in 16 languages (to date approximately 1700 Cards are available in English). Documentation and correct information are a responsibility of the producer or the distributor of the chemical.
The International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM), in order to respect this proposal and to a wide international diffusion of it, in 6 February 2006, adopted the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) a policy framework. The European Union (EU), in addition, to optimise and to improve his policy and the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals adopted a regulation, the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).
That being so, seems to be clear that Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) in the use of chemicals needs a collective and integrated contribution based on a continuous collaboration and partecipation of all the figures involved locally and globally.
This approach is particularly appropriate since the rate at which chemicals are produced with an exponential growth in the last years due to the evolution of the indutrial material engineering (there are now more than 75 million chemical substances in the registry of the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS)).
At the end of the article there are the pictures linked to the poster and the report related to the World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2014.
In Italy, until 24 April 2014, according to the website of the ANMIL (National Association between People Disabled at Work) the deaths at work reported by press were 122 (here the official page “Deaths and Injuries at Work” constantly updating).
We really hope that the memory of those who without any reason suffered at work can help to score the match point in favour of Safety and Prevention by the collaboration and the efforts of governments, employers, and workers worldwide…surely this is the best way to celebrate the next May Day, the Workers’ Day 2014.
P.S: We share yet again the logo from our poster : “Workers’ lives cannot be erased !!! Safety and Prevention help lives being saved”.