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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd

News from around the World

News Archive

July 2004

'Effective intervention and Sector Dialogue in Occupational Safety and Health' will be held at Hotel Okura Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 15-17 September 2004

The Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) hereby announces that the invitational conference 'Effective intervention and Sector Dialogue in Occupational Safety and Health' will be held at Hotel Okura, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 15-17 September 2004.

The main objective of this invitational conference is to convey the notion that there are many creative and effective ways in which companies, social partners, national and regional authorities can create a healthy and safe working environment. In particular different forms of sector dialogues at national and European level can be considered as (potentially) effective tools.

In fact the new "Community strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006: adapting to change in work and society" already identified a number of these tools. Voluntary agreements, partnerships, sector approaches, and financial incentives for example have been highlighted as interesting new methods of improving Occupational Safety and Health. This conference will actually provide information on the current situation in the European Union with respect to the use of these methods.
On 1 May 2004 new Member States will join the European Union. They may have a particular interest in receiving first hand information on experiences with these new intervention methods.
With all this in mind, SZW is organising the invitational conference 'Effective Intervention and Sector Dialogue in Occupational Safety and Health' .

Logistics and registration: Congrex Holland, P.O. Box 302, 1000 AH Amsterdam, The Netherlands | T +31 20 504 0200 | F +31 20 504 0225 | E-mail:

The Foundation's Administrative Board approves the new four-year work programme 2005-2008: Supporting Europe in realising the Lisbon objectives

More and better employment, work-life balance, industrial relations and partnership, and social cohesion are the four key themes identified as priority areas for the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions' work over the next four years, as outlined in the new four-year work programme which was approved by the Foundation's Administrative Board on 9 July last. The programme underlines the importance of a comprehensive and integrated approach to these policy issues, underpinned by an effective communication strategy with the Foundation's key audiences across Europe. The Foundation's detailed work programme is approved on an annual basis by the Foundation's Administrative Board.

'The drive to make Europe the most competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world, to increase employment rates and improve the quality of employment, to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship, while promoting social cohesion and inclusion - in short, realising the objectives of the Lisbon strategy - is the leitmotif of the programme,' says Willy Buschak, the Foundation's acting Director. 'This is the eighth four-year programme of the Foundation and we are very happy to have reached consensus with our new, enlarged Administrative Board, now including representatives from all 25 EU Member States.'

The Foundation's four-year programme looks ahead to the opportunities and challenges facing the new European Union. The Foundation aims to channel knowledge from its monitoring activities and other research into understanding the challenges, supporting change in society and the economy, and providing its stakeholders with the information necessary for managing change.

More information is available on

For further information, contact John Hurley, Information Liaison Officer | telephone +353-1-204 3209 | e-mail

National Eczema Week 18-25 September 2004: 'Itching 9 to 5 - working with eczema'

The National Eczema Society is strengthening resources for safety officers managing employees with work-related contact dermatitis.

'Contact dermatitis - have I got it? How do I deal with it?' and 'Contact dermatitis - an employers guide' are new booklets being launched to coincide with September's National Eczema Week, themed "Itching 9 to 5 - working with eczema'.

Around 375,000 working days are lost in the UK each year due to skin disease[1] and, having seen a threefold increase in the prevalence of eczema in the last 30 years[2], the National Eczema Society's helpline is experiencing an unprecedented level of demand for its services, receiving over 30,000 calls last year alone from sufferers and their families seeking advice and support.

National Eczema Society Chief Executive Margaret Cox said: "The booklets have been devised to help safety officers help employees manage contact dermatitis at work. There is also practical advice for employers such as providing soap substitutes and allowing time out for applying emollients.

"Contact dermatitis is becoming increasingly common and the feedback we've had from many safety officers is that more information is needed to guide employers and to help individuals manage the condition on a day to day basis."

National Eczema Week aims to raise the profile of the condition and the Society so that more people with eczema know how to access help, information and support. A specialist phone day giving the public access to a dermatology specialist on the Society's Helpline - 0870 241 3604 - will be held on Saturday September 25 (note: it is not possible to diagnose or prescribe over the telephone).

'Contact dermatitis - have I got it? How do I deal with it?' covers all aspects of occupational contact dermatitis from diagnosis to treatment and prevention. To order a free copy call 0870 241 3604 or Email:

To obtain copies of 'Contact dermatitis - an employers guide' Tel: +44 (0) 207 561 8235.

For further information about membership or services please write to the National Eczema Society, Hill House, Highgate Hill London N19 5NA, UK Tel: +44 (0) 207 281 3553 | Fax: +44 (0) 207 281 6395

The National Eczema Society runs an information service for people affected by eczema. Tel: 0870 241 3604 Monday to Friday between 8am - 8pm or email


1: SWI 01/02 [A household survey of self-reported work-related illness, giving estimates of the number of people who have conditions which they think have been caused or made worse by work (regardless of whether they have been seen by a Doctor). SWI surveys have been carried out, in conjunction with the Office for National Statistics' Labour Force Survey (LFS) in 1990, 1995, 1998/99 and 2001/02]

2: Williams, HC. Is the prevalence of atopic dermatitis increasing? Clinical & Experimental Dermatology. 17(6):385-91, 1992 Nov

Europe's social partners first to sign up to 'Building in Safety' campaign charter

Europe's social partners in the construction industry, FIEC and EFBWW, representing over 80 unions and federations across the continent, have signed the new 'Building in Safety' campaign charter, launched by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.

The campaign charter, which is part of the Agency's 2004 European Week on Safety and Health at Work (18-22 October 2004), aimed this year at construction work, commits signatories to contribute to the campaign and to improve safety and health standards in the sector via training, information and other initiatives. In return for their commitment, signatories will receive a 'building in safety' certificate from the Agency.

Both European Social Partners - the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) and the Federation of European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) - were the first to sign the charter at the official launch of the Agency's European Week in Dublin on 30 April 2004. The FIEC currently represents 32 national federation members in 25 countries, while the EFBWW has 50 affiliated unions in 17 countries, representing over 2 million workers.

Peter Andrews, the FIEC Vice President responsible for social affairs says: "For us, the key objective is to ensure that this campaign reaches the widest possible audience. This new charter is an important means of increasing individual commitment to health and safety initiatives on-site and we see this as a continued part of our efforts to achieve real progress across the European construction industry".

Harrie Beijen, General Secretary of the EFBWW, comments: "The life and health of every construction worker can be better protected by joint efforts of all parties concerned; governments, clients, architects, engineers, contractors and workers. We can learn from one another and set specific benchmarks for specific problems. If this European campaign can encourage this then we have already won a lot".

"Having FIEC and EFBWW as the first signatories to our campaign charter not only demonstrates their strong commitment to raising safety and health standards in construction but will also encourage others to follow their lead," adds Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Director of the Agency. "Our common goal is to reduce the appalling human and economic costs of occupational accidents and ill-health in construction, so we need everyone with a stake in the industry, from building firms to architects and engineers, to get involved and to sign up."

To sign the online charter, and for further information about the Agency's 2004 European Week, visit: Registration takes just five minutes. The web site also provides information on how to improve safety and health standards, including good practice examples and related links.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Gran Via 33, E-48009 Bilbao, Spain | Email: | Fax: +34 94 479 4383
FIEC: Email: |
EFBWW: Email: |

Too many welders unaware of carcinogenic chemical

According to a recent survey, 35% of welders remain unaware of the fact that most anti-spatter sprays contain dichloromethane, a carcinogenic, health-damaging chemical. The survey, carried out on behalf of Stevens Industrial Services, suggests that many welders are unknowingly putting their own health at risk by working with the toxic chemical.

Even more concerning is the fact that these results also revealed that, of the 65% of welders who are aware of the harmful effects of dichloromethane, almost half continue to use anti-spatter products that contain the chemical. Most welders who continue to work with dichloromethane based products, take health and safety precautions. 15% use facemasks, 8% rely on extractor fans and 4% merely turn their face away from the spray. However, as many as 8% of those questioned take no measures at all to combat the effects of this category three carcinogen, which has also been proven to cause damage to the blood, the nervous system and the liver.

"I am shocked and disappointed that industry is being so lax about this," stated Graham Stevens, managing director of Stevens Industrial Services. "The dangers of dichloromethane are evident on the product's label, so there is no excuse. The best precaution for use of this chemical, in my view, is to simply stop using it altogether."

42% of welders aware of treatments containing the dichloromethane, have stopped using all anti-spatter products. Instead they are using more time-consuming methods of removing weld spatter, such as scraping, sanding and grinding. 23% now use spatter control products that do not contain the chemical. "It is understandable that welders continue to use dichloromethane based anti spatters," explained Stevens, whose company supplies 'The Works' range of dichloromethane free spatter control products. "Up until recently these have been the only kind of effective anti-spatter. Many welders are yet to realise that the market now offers anti-spatter sprays that are completely safe to use and even more effective than those based on dichloromethane."

Contact: Graham Stevens - Stevens Industrial Services, Unit 4, Littleburn Industrial Estate, Langley Moor, Durham, DH7 8JE, UK | Tel: +44 (0) 191 378 1786 Fax: +44 (0) 191 378 2190

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publishes new guidance on accident investigation

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published new guidance on how to investigate accidents and incidents, including near misses. The guidance, which was prepared in consultation with industry, unions and health and safety professional bodies, is intended as a first step in introducing organisations to the benefits of carrying out investigations and the methods by which accidents should be recorded, investigated and the findings acted upon.

The guidance is aimed primarily at small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) where it is often difficult to build up an expertise in investigating, although larger organisations may also find it helpful.
No previous expertise is needed to use the workbook and guidance notes that take the user step-by-step through the investigating process from start to finish and includes worked examples and blank template forms for accident analysis.

The four steps featured in the guidance are:

Jonathan Russell of HSE's enforcement policy branch, said: "To have one accident is bad enough, but to have a further accident because lessons were not learnt is inexcusable. HSE believes that the best people to make workplaces safer are the staff and managers who work in them. By producing this guidance we aim to provide a tool for them to find out what went wrong, learn lessons and take action to reduce, or hopefully prevent, accidents in the future."

Copies of 'Investigating accidents and incidents - a workbook for employers, unions, safety representatives and safety professionals' (HSE Ref. HSG245) are available from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2WA UK | Tel: +44 (0) 1787-881165 | Fax: +44 (0) 1787-313995. ISBN 0 7176 2827 2, price £9.50.

Smoking in Western Europe Survey June 2004

You are almost certainly aware of recent news reports in the UK outlining the risk of passive smoking to people in the workplace. But how are smoking issues impacting on European Union (EU) neighbours? Smoke Free recently undertook some research to investigate. Here are the results.


A brief questionnaire was sent to Smoke Free's partners in the UK, Holland, Germany, Norway and Sweden to gain an understanding of some of the key issues surrounding smoking demographics and policies within each country. Part of the reason for this was to understand how the varying levels of legislation had impacted on each market place and what it means for work and public places.

Give up? Nein danke

The Dutch and Germans are by far the biggest smokers with over 30 per cent of the adult population partaking of the habit. The Scandinavian neighbours of Sweden and Norway show an interesting difference though, only 19 per cent of Swedes smoking in comparison to 26 per cent of the Norwegians. The UK seems to be mid-way with an average of 27 per cent.

Young women on the increase

The split between the sexes is an interesting one, whilst in all countries the majority of smokers are still male (varying from 2 per cent to 7 per cent more than the females), there is a demographic shift taking place. In every instance the percentage of males smoking is on the decline with less younger male smokers taking up the habit. In comparison young females (typically 15 to 25) is the only growth sector and that's consistent across the geographies. It seems that social pressures and social group is a large factor in this.

Policy? What policy?

The amount of companies with a formal smoking policy, and what that means for employees, varies wildly. For example, in Germany it's estimated that only 10 per cent of companies have a smoking policy and of those 50 per cent allow smoking anywhere in the building. Contrast this with Sweden (with the lowest amount of adult smokers) where legislation has been in place since 1993 obliging all companies to have a policy and ensuring that you'll find no smoking in the office environment except in designated smoking areas.

Where next?

Across Europe, varying degrees of legislation have been brought in over the last 14 years. For example in Norway it's now forbidden to smoke in all public places including restaurants, bars and discos (essentially anywhere serving food or drink). Sweden will follow suit next year although areas like shopping malls, airports, hospitals and cinemas are already covered by legislation. The UK government is still considering the breadth of legislation and is no doubt keenly observing the implications and lessons learnt from other EU neighbours and particularly the recently introduced legislation in Ireland.

Who's got it right?

Smoking is still very much on the agenda. The implications and impact of smoking in public places or the workplace is very much defined by the legislative small print.

Perhaps this is best illustrated by what's experienced in Sweden and Ireland. Since 1993 tobacco legislation in Sweden has meant that employers have a responsibility to protect non-smokers from the hazards of passive smoking. The legislation works well because it states what should be achieved but not how it should be achieved, giving each workplace the opportunity of identifying the best solution for them and their employees. Because of this smoking at work is now seen by the Swedish government as a non-issue.

Ireland, on the other hand, has just introduced legislation dictating that all permanent enclosed structures of either a workplace or public nature are to be non-smoking. The result? Well tents, marquees, train carriages and even old buses aren't deemed permanent structures... so you can guess how people are circumventing the new regulations!

One constant that remains across seemingly all countries is that smoking is an issue. Legislation is such that in most countries there are very real alternatives to outright bans in working environments that can keep all parties happy as well as ensuring that those all-important informal communications networks continue unhindered. The alternatives include taking a more balanced approach to the issue and developing effective policies that allow both smokers and non-smokers to get the most from their workplaces without either being inconvenienced or endangered.

Contact: Bernard Crouch, Smoke Free Systems, St James House, Kensington Square, London W8 5HD UK | Tel: + 44 (0)20 7795 8133 | Email: |

Just published: Brochure BG Research of the HVBG, Germany

This brochure presents the activities of the three Institutes (BIA, BGAG and BGFA) operated and funded by the Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaften (HVBG, Federation of institutions for statutory accident insurance and prevention), and the ways in which extra-mural
research is funded.

The wide range of disciplines and the strict orientation towards the needs of the BGs ensure that the research subjects are addressed in an interdisciplinary und practical fashion. The brochure can be ordered in German and in English by

Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment

In its response to the Public Consultation on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) submitted on 5 July, Eucomed, the European Medical Technology Industry Association, explains why medical technology should continue to be exempted from the scope of the RoHS Directive. Eucomed stresses that the priority should be to ensure that medical devices and equipment are reliable and safe, both for patients and healthcare professionals. The introduction of new medical technology excluding all the hazardous substances identified by the European Commission in RoHS would at the very least require five years.

"We fully support the aims and objectives of this Directive and are keen that medical technology is seen to be environmentally friendly. But our absolute priority must remain to guarantee the quality and safety of patient care", commented Maurice Wagner, Director General of Eucomed.

Indeed, medical devices and equipment used to date are well understood and reliable. A switch from well understood technology to technology for which there is less experience should not be undertaken without a risk management exercise based on adequate data. Because of their importance in terms of public health, and patient and user safety, medical devices and equipment should be allowed sufficient time for reliable data to become available from which informed assessments can be made, before switching to new materials or manufacturing processes.

Medical technology can have long development times, and to ensure compliance with the Medical Device Directive (93/42/EC) there must be adequate data (possibly including clinical evidence) to demonstrate it is safe. Eucomed has estimated that as a minimum, an extension of the exemption from the RoHS Directive of at least five additional years should be granted for medical technology.

The use of certain banned substances is still essential today in the medical world, as for example lead shielding, optical glass or heavy metals needed for Computed Tomography (CT) detectors to effectively stop X-rays. There are also special applications for some banned materials in cryostats of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) devices.

The medical technology industry's role is to provide solutions for the maintenance and enhancement of health as well as critical therapies for life-threatening diseases. The industry's primary responsibility is to the patient, and there is total commitment to manufacture only therapeutically effective products in which the risks to patients are minimized and to use the most appropriate materials in doing so.
For full Eucomed response

Eucomed, Place St. Lambert 14, B 1200 Woluwe St Lambert - Belgium | Tel: +32 2 775.92.39 | Fax: +32 2 771.39.09 | Email:

European Commissioner for health and consumer protection, David Byrne, sets out his vision for achieving a healthier and more competitive Europe

The reflection paper "Enabling good health for all" (213 KB) outlines his view of the key principles that ought to guide the development of EU health policy over the coming years. These include the role of good health as a driver of economic growth and the urgency of addressing health inequalities both between member states and within them.

The paper proposes a new direction for health policy: to shift from treating ill-health only to pro-actively promoting good health. It also pinpoints the need to ensure that health must be at the centre of all policy-making. Making health a shared responsibility of the public, national governments and the EU is at the heart of the Commission's paper.

Public bodies, interest groups and individual citizens are invited to contribute to the reflection process by sending their views 15 October 2004 to the following address:

Press release.

Full text of the Commissioner's speech.

Promoting quality of work in the European Union: Agency annual report and publications

The Bilbao-based European Agency for Safety and Health at Work launches its 2003 Annual Report and a CD-ROM with all publications released in 2002-2003. The addition of new Web features and online publications has established the Agency as Europe's premier online portal of occupational safety and health (OSH) information, according to the Agency's 2003 annual report.

Other 2003 achievements highlighted in the report include:

During the year, the EU-funded Agency also prepared itself to accommodate enlargement as cost-effectively as possible. 'With the arrival of 10 new Member States in May 2004, the Agency will be able to offer an unrivalled pool of OSH expertise and knowledge,' say Christa Schweng, the Chairperson, and Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, the Director, in the report's opening statement.

The report's publication coincides with the launch of a special CD-ROM edition of all the Agency's 2002-3 publications.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Gran Via 33, E-48009 Bilbao, Spain | email: | fax: +34 94 479 4383.

The Annual report in EN and summaries in the 20 EU languages can be downloaded from:

In addition to the Annual Report and the summaries, the Agency has produced a CD-ROM of Agency information and publications. Copies of the Annual Report, catalogue number TE-AB-04-001-EN-C, and of the Agency Information CD-ROM, TE-49-02-854-EN-Z can be ordered from the European Publications Office and its sales offices.

HSE publishes results of research into structural deterioration of ageing tractor safety cabs

Tractor safety cabs keep farmers safe, but greater care and preventative maintenance is needed to prolong the life of the tractor cab says a new report issued today by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Carried out by the Silsoe Research Institute, the research looks at the effects on tractor safety cabs that have been in service for many years. The potential risk of serious injury posed to agricultural tractor drivers by rollover incidents has been widely recognised for 40 years. To protect drivers, legislation was introduced in the UK requiring all new tractors sold after 1 September 1970 to be fitted with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) to prevent the operator from being crushed should the tractor overturn.

This requirement, and the later Agriculture (Tractor Cabs) Regulations 1974, has been outstandingly successful in terms of improving the standard of safety. In the decade before the Regulations came into force, annual deaths each year due to tractor rollovers were in double figures, typically in excess of 30 with a peak of over 50 deaths in 1966.

Since their introduction, the number of fatalities has fallen to low single figures. Last year's characteristic figure showed that there were just two deaths due to tractor rollover incidents. The deaths today generally occur with tractors that do not have a safety cab or roll bar fitted.

Given this, HSE wanted to determine whether safety cabs that had been in service for a number of years would be likely to still provide the intended degree of protection and commissioned the research with the Silsoe Research Institute. This involved a detailed survey of around 400 used tractors manufactured between 1970 and 1990.

Of the 400, seven tractors were subject to intense examinations including partial dismantling to assess their structural condition. Five of these tractors were then selected for a recognised structural testing procedure to determine if they were still capable of providing the intended degree of rollover protection.

This work demonstrated that:

The conclusions reached were:

In order to improve safety cab/ROPS longevity and, ultimately, the protection they provide to the driver in the event of a rollover incident, HSE advises tractor owners and operators that they should:

Copies of the full report entitled 'Structural deterioration of tractor safety cabs with age' RR251, price £25, ISBN 0 7176 2873 6 are available from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2WA, UK | Tel: +44 (0)1787 881 165 | Fax: +44 (0)1787 313 995 |

HSE's research reports are also available

European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry announced. Strategic research priorities and cross-cutting innovation issues to be tackled

The European Commission, together with Cefic and EuropaBio have launched their joint initiative, the "European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry". The platform aims to attract investments in chemistry R&D and innovation in Europe.

This new Technology Platform will be a multi-stakeholder forum to develop a European strategic research agenda, SRA, that will include collaborative research in prioritised technology areas. It will also address non-technological barriers to chemical innovation. A launch document highlighting the rationale, scope and organization of the Technology Platform will act as a thought starter for the development of a Strategic Research Agenda and action plan.

"Research is the primary source of innovation in the knowledge-intensive chemical industry and is driving the sector forward," said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "The European chemical industry has an impressive track record of developing new products and manufacturing processes, but the challenge is to improve the transformation of laboratory ideas into new sustainable products and services to boost EU competitiveness."

"The Platform offers a great opportunity to merge industry's and the EU's ambitions by focusing and aligning collaborative research in support of a more competitive and more sustainable industry," said Jan Dopper of DSM's Managing Board and current chair of Cefic's Research & Science Board. "Engagement with all stakeholders will be key to stimulate and focus the innovation process".

Dr. Stefan Marcinowski of BASF's Managing Board commented that enhancing chemical innovation is vitally important beyond the chemical sector itself, emphasising the vastly multiplied impact of chemical innovation on downstream industries. "The chemical industry is a motor for our economy - on a global as well as on a European level", he said.

Dr. Johan Vanhemelrijck, Europabio Secretary General added: "The collaboration between Cefic, EuropaBio and the Commission is a significant strength of this technology platform. Together with the other sectors, biotechnology will effectively boost innovation, resulting in synergistic environmental and economical benefits for a better quality of life in a more sustainable society."

The launch document was developed by Cefic and EuropaBio in consultation with the European Commission. It shows that the Platform is timely based on a recent Cefic study "Horizon 2015" that outlined the risk to the competitiveness of the European chemical industry and highlighted innovation as a main driver for the sector's future competitiveness.

For further information:

Launch brochure "A European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry" can be downloaded from the Cefic website.

It provides a visionary outlook for the industry's research and innovation requirements and also assesses the platform's role in aligning with EU policy actions such as the Commission's Environmental Technology Action Plan. The document lays the groundwork for stakeholder discussions and other future work.

Minister opens the new £3.5M Headquarters of the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), Edinburgh

The Rt Hon Jim Wallace, Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, has officially opened the new £3.5m headquarters of the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM), Riccarton, Edinburgh. The IOM is the world renowned independent UK centre for multidisciplinary research, consultancy and training in occupational and environmental health, hygiene and safety.

The Institute has undertaken many projects of international importance and has extensive experience in occupational health, risk assessment and occupational hygiene and safety. The occupational health team provide a wide range of assessments and a health surveillance service while the occupational hygiene and safety division assists in the assessment and control of employees' exposure to hazardous chemicals and physical agents.

The new state-of-the art 1,992 sqm building, adjacent to Heriot Watt University, was purpose-built to accommodate modern research facilities and laboratories. The building has been constructed on one level with a mezzanine floor and incorporates offices, meeting rooms and laboratories which were all designed in conjunction with IOM staff. Located on a 1.81 acre site it has been designed to enable future expansion.

Dr Colin Soutar, Chief Executive of the IOM, said; "The move to our new premises reflects the increased demand for our services locally and worldwide and complements our position as an international centre of excellence. This new building enables us to showcase our work which is undertaken by a respected team of professionals including leading scientists who have gained both national and international recognition for their work."

The IOM's former headquarters at Roxburgh Place became too cramped and restricted for the expansion of research, analysis and consultations that the IOM is undertaking.

Dr Soutar, continued, "The importance of our work should never be underestimated. Our research and consultancy work is helping to reduce work-related injuries and ill health, which still damage the lives of many workers and their families, and which costs the UK economy over £4 billion a year."

Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian assisted the IOM in finding a new location and the Scottish Executive provided Regional Selective Assistance. Construction of the new facility commenced in February 2003, and the staff were able to move in to the new completed building in November 2003.

The IOM was founded as a charity in 1969 by the UK coal industry in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh and became fully independent in 1990. Its mission is to benefit those at work and in the community by providing quality research, consultancy and training in health, hygiene and safety and by maintaining its independent position as an international centre of excellence. IOM advises and researched on the health aspects of dusts, asbestos, air pollution, chemicals, manual handling and stress.

The IOM has research locations in Edinburgh, Chesterfield, Stafford and London. The IOM is also a WHO (World Health Organisation) Collaborating Centre and assisted in developing the WHO's standard method of measuring airborne asbestos.

Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) is a national grant scheme, aimed at encouraging investment and job creation in the areas of Scotland designated for regional aid under European Community (EC) law.

European Member States to reduce pollution

The European Commission has sent first written warnings to Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, urging them to do more to tackle air pollution in many of their urban areas. The air pollutants considered in this case - nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter - are harmful to human health, in particular to sensitive groups of the population such as children. Especially particulate matter aggravates respiratory diseases, and may even lead to premature death.

Under European Union (EU) environmental legislation, the nine Member States should have drawn up pollution-reduction plans for areas with high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter by the end of December 2003. These plans have to outline the measures that the Member States intend to take to reduce the pollution. The choice of measures is up to the Member States, but they could, for example, include traffic restrictions and the relocation of polluting installations.

The Commission's action will help achieve cleaner air in European cities to the benefit of citizens. Commenting on the Commission's action, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "The air in many of our cities and towns is still polluted, which has negative effects on the health of city-dwellers. Particularly children are at risk because they are highly vulnerable to air pollution. It is the duty of authorities to make sure that the air in cities is as clean as possible. Implementation of EU air quality laws will certainly help them reach this goal."

Press Release

Protecting the ozone layer: Commission takes legal action against nine Member States

The European Commission has sent first written warnings to nine Member States that have not informed the Commission about what they have done to limit the use of the pesticide methyl bromide. The pesticide is being phased out under EU law, as it depletes the Earth's ozone layer, which protects humans, animals and plants from the sun's dangerous ultraviolet radiation.

But for certain uses - where no alternatives exist yet - it is still allowed under strict control. Such uses include treatments to ensure that traded crops are pest-free. Member States must report to the Commission every year about the exact amount of methyl bromide they have used, for which purposes and what they have done to reduce the use. They must also report on progress in evaluating and using alternatives. Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom have either not reported or reported insubstantially. The Commission is therefore taking legal action to ensure EU citizens the environmental protection they expect.

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "It is in Member States' interest to adopt substitutes for methyl bromide in the agricultural and food processing sectors so that their competitiveness in the long term, when methyl bromide goes out of use, is not impaired. Methyl bromide has a very serious effect on our ozone layer, which protects us from dangerous solar rays and therefore from skin cancer, immune system deficiency, and damage to crops and other plants. We have to stop using it as soon as possible. To reach this goal we need to work together."

Press Releases