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19/10/2018

Sharing solutions to reduce the risks from carcinogens

Cancer is the leading cause of work-related death in the EU, responsible for around 80,000 deaths each year. More can, and must, be done to reduce this number. The Roadmap on Carcinogens is aiming to raise awareness of the risks arising from exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, while promoting and facilitating the exchange of good practice across Europe.

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Carcinogens cover a range of substances, from solvents to process-generated materials such as the particles found in welding fumes and silica dust. To combat the risks posed by carcinogens, 6 European organisations, including EU-OSHA, signed up to what became known as the Roadmap on Carcinogens in May 2016. Social partners, companies, research organisations and other stakeholders across Europe are all encouraged to participate.

Established in 2016 under the Netherlands EU Presidency, a number of Member States have officially joined the roadmap and others are running actions to prevent the harm caused by carcinogens. The fight against occupational cancer was the focus of a recent high-level conference hosted by the Austrian EU Presidency on 24-25 September. At the conference, EU-OSHA presented its own and the Member States’ activities on carcinogens in the context of the current Healthy Workplaces Manage Dangerous Substances campaign. Participants also highlighted the elimination and substitution of risks as important strategies for mitigating the dangers of carcinogens. The roadmap’s next destination is Helsinki, with the forthcoming Finnish EU Presidency announcing its support of the scheme in 2019.

The aims of the roadmap

The overall goal of the roadmap is to reinforce prevention in companies by providing employers with strategies for risk assessment and management, as well as with vital information about limit values.

Awareness-raising is also key, and will be especially helpful for smaller companies with limited knowledge of good practice. It is hoped that greater awareness will lead to innovation in production processes, resulting in carcinogenic substances being replaced with safer alternatives.

Help and advice available

A dedicated website for the initiative includes a number of tools for employers and employees, including multilingual factsheets about different carcinogens and good practice tips. A video is also available which provides a helpful introduction to the initiative.

Every year, 120,000 people develop cancer as a result of exposure to carcinogens in the workplace. As a result, the prevention of risks from carcinogens is one of the 5 strategic objectives of the Healthy Workplaces Campaign. The campaign website includes an extensive database of tools and guidance material to support companies of all sizes, workers’ representatives and labour inspectors, among many others. A recent survey among EU-OSHA’s national focal points revealed that they are organising events, developing guidance and training, and undertaking awareness-raising actions to combat the problem. Prevention should start early: many actions target young workers with the focus on awareness-raising in schools (at all levels) and in vocational education.

EU-OSHA is also advancing the roadmap by organising and contributing to events, and by producing an info sheet with the other signatories. Prior to the roadmap, EU-OSHA published a review of assessment methods, and ran a workshop on Carcinogens and Work-Related Cancer’.

Practical tools and results from national labour inspection campaigns were discussed at the 2017 A+A Safety, Security and Health at Work — International Trade Fair in Düsseldorf, Germany, and at this year’s 32nd International Congress on Occupational Health ICOH 2018 the challenges of assessing and measuring exposures were addressed.

Join the roadmap

Interested parties are encouraged to join and support the roadmap community and subscribe to the newsletter. In return, organisations and workers can benefit from the knowledge and activities that are shared with the community. The roadmap already features 660 organisations, businesses and friends, and 60 solutions from 13 countries have been published.

To get more involved, why not take part in one of the many events and activities planned across Europe (and beyond)? Don’t forget to visit the Healthy Workplaces Campaign website and follow the campaign on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter (#EUhealthyworkplaces) for the latest updates.