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Case studies: how to provide training and raise awareness of the risks of dangerous substances

After looking at real-life examples of how companies use elimination, substitution and organisational and technological measures to tackle the risks posed by dangerous substances, we now turn our attention to training and awareness-raising. Hopefully these examples will inspire you to replicate or adapt some of the methods to your own workplace.

EU-OSHA/Ciara Doherty

Hand in hand: How awareness-raising and training can work together

A training programme in Germany shows how schools and enterprises can collaborate to educate young people about working safely with chemicals. A chemistry teacher from Hamburg and chemical company Lehmann&Voss&Co worked together to introduce students to employment and teach them the importance of occupational safety and health (OSH) in the chemicals industry.

Students learnt about the manufacture of chemicals and the basic rules of safety and health in laboratories. They gained practical experience with the company through on-site training, which further raised pupils’ awareness of OSH. For Lehmann&Voss&Co the training was also a success as it increased pupils’ interest in a career in the chemicals industry, as well as improving the OSH culture within the company.

On a larger scale, one of EU-OSHA's official campaign partners, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), launched the ‘No Time to Lose’ campaign to help tackle occupational cancer. As well as raising awareness of the risks associated with exposure to carcinogens, the campaign also offers free materials to businesses to help them deliver effective prevention programmes. The campaign is now supported by over 220 organisations and over 100 leading businesses, reaching half a million employees worldwide.

From the boardroom to the factory floor: Why training is essential at all organisational levels

Training can be used in a variety of ways to improve worker safety. In Romania, OSH authorities and inspectors received training on using EU legislation and chemicals in practice through the CONOSCEDE project, which involved the cooperation of experts from Norway. The project used a mixture of e-learning and classroom teaching and included personal mentoring, study visits and meetings with representatives of the Norwegian Environmental Agency, the Norwegian OSH institute and private enterprises.

The training improved participants’ ability to understand and employ data more efficiently in decision-making processes, helping enterprises implement legislation and management tools regarding chemicals. OSH inspectors were also familiarised with OSH-related topics, such as toxicology, so that they can discuss legislation like REACH, CLP and safety data sheets with enterprises.

Training and communication should also be focused on frontline workers. Chemical manufacturers BorsodChem in Hungary managed to greatly reduce the number of incidents by providing employees and subcontractors for maintenance and technical service tasks with practical training. The ‘Aiming for zero harm through training and communication’ programme provided workers with user manuals on the dangers posed by each chemical, and the precautions to take. The company also now includes near miss reports in training to ensure that lessons are learned and to better prevent accidents in the future.

Tests were also introduced for workers at all levels of the company, and a database of dangerous substances was developed, which will enable personalised exposure monitoring for workers. Subcontractors must also follow OSH training and take a test. For certain high-risk maintenance tasks an authorisation, which includes a checklist of prevention measures to follow, must be completed.

All of these examples are transferable to other companies, industries and countries. While they’re intended to provide you with some inspiration, don’t forget that such examples of action always need to be complemented by other measures. Organisations should strive for a comprehensive approach to managing the risks related to working with dangerous substances, and follow the STOP principle.

More tools and guidance on awareness raising are available on the campaign website along with other case studies, and the Napo awareness-raising films. And don’t forget to follow the latest campaign developments on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter (#EUhealthyworkplaces).