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19/09/2019

Good Practice Awards 2019 – keeping workers safe through elimination and substitution

As part of the 14th Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards, 6 organisations were awarded and 4 were commended for their outstanding commitment to the promotion of occupational safety and health (OSH) practices that protect workers and boost productivity.

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© EUOSHA/Emmanuel Biard

The Good Practice Awards jury were looking for examples that:

  • are directly related to reducing the risks caused by dangerous substances;
  • prioritised collective measures;
  • led to tangible improvements;
  • go beyond minimum requirements of the legislation;
  • are sustainable and transferable to other countries, sectors or enterprises.

The most efficient and effective way to control and reduce the risks posed by dangerous substances is through elimination or substitution. This is why it is at the top of the hierarchy of prevention measures, known as the STOP principle. Two winning examples show how companies of any size can successfully follow the STOP principle to keep their workers safe and healthy.

The ‘Analysis Safe’ technique

Eiffage Infrastructures, a large French company in the road construction and maintenance sector, were awarded for developing a new technique, ‘Analysis Safe’. The technique completely eliminates the need for a hazardous solvent, thus eliminating the risks to worker health and the environment.

Analysis Safe is a method for analysing reclaimed asphalt. It uses an infrared spectrometer to characterise the physical properties of reclaimed asphalt. The analysis was previously done using perchloroethylene, an organic chlorinated solvent classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic. Working with the solvent put thousands of laboratory technicians at risk of exposure every day.

Analysis Safe entirely removes the risks to workers, reduces the amount of laboratory equipment required, and the time needed for analysis, at less cost. The method is also fully transferable to other companies in the sector and to other countries.

The healthy hair salon philosophy

Peluquería Elvira, a small hairdressing and beauty salon in Spain, began something of a revolution in a sector in which workers are commonly exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals in, for instance, hair dyes and bleaches. Such exposure can lead to skin and eye irritation and respiratory problems.

The hair salon achieved this by substituting products containing harmful chemicals with plant-based products with phytosanitary certificates. The salon also introduced additional technical, organisational and personal protective measures, such as improved ventilation, a separate mixing place for the products they could not substitute, and ergonomic equipment, along with a training programme for staff.

The company consulted its workers throughout the changes and thanks to the measures introduced, workers at Peluquería Elvira report better health, less skin, eye and throat irritation, fatigue and headaches. The salon has shared its practices with many other salons in Spain. More than two thirds have implemented a package of preventive measures and the rest have almost completed their implementation. The company´s measures are part of an overall policy, which also helped achieve considerable reductions in energy and water consumption, and therefore cost savings.

Discover more good practice examples

If these examples have inspired you, a full run-down of the winning and commended examples can be found in the Good Practice Awards booklet. We will also be featuring other winners in our next article.

You might also want to visit the case studies section on the campaign website, which features good practice examples covering a wide variety of sectors from organisations across Europe. And don’t forget to keep up-to-date with the campaign on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (#EUhealthyworkplaces).