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News Archive

November 2006

Draft European health and safety legislation

The following draft legislation will be of interest to readers:

Asbestos at Work

Proposal for a Directive on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work (Codified version) (COM(2006) 664)

Safety of Tractors

Proposal for a Directive on the field of vision and windscreen wipers for wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors (Codified version) (COM(2006) 651); also parts and characteristics (COM(2006) 662); speed and load platforms (COM(2006) 667) and steering equipment(COM(2006) 670)

Advice on setting up a team to manage stress at work

The aim of this document is to discuss the formation and operation of a 'Steering Group' in relation to the HSE Management Standards on Work-related Stress (Management Standards). The primary function of a Steering Group is to oversee and facilitate the Management Standards project, effectively acting as a project management group or board.

The Steering Group should serve to guide and give authority to the risk assessment and subsequent actions. The group should also maintain both the organisation's and the employees' sense of involvement in the project. While the exact composition of the Steering Group will need to reflect the organisation's structure and culture, it should represent the interests of all key stakeholders, including the employees.

It is important that the Steering Group has authority and credibility, both will be reflected in the:

  1. Membership and
  2. Terms of reference.

The sections in this 8 page booklet give more information about these two issues.

Health and Safety at Work
Stress management standards steering groups. Advice on setting up a team to manage stress at work.
www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/pdfs/steeringgroups.pdf [PDF 100KB]

UK Statistics Commission new-look website

The UK Statistics Commission is an independent public body. It was set up in June 2000 to 'help ensure that official statistics are trustworthy and responsive to public needs', to 'give independent, reliable and relevant advice' and by so doing to 'provide an additional safeguard on the quality and integrity' of official statistics. It operates openly and independently, with all its papers normally available publicly.

As well as carrying out research and publishing reports, the Commission investigates and responds to specific public concerns about official statistics and works with government departments to improve understanding of user needs and the governance of statistical services more generally.

www.statscom.org.uk

RIP Coalition calls for New Cigarette Standard to Cut Fires

An estimated 1,300 lives could be saved in Europe each year if reduced ignition propensity (RIP) cigarettes - also known as fire safer cigarettes - were manufactured and sold, instead of the current standard cigarettes.

Figures for the UK show that fires started by cigarettes kill more people than any other kind of fire - accounting for one third of all accidental fatal fires in the home. RIP/fire safer cigarettes have been successfully introduced into New York and other states in the USA and countries such as Canada. To help combat the needless deaths caused by cigarette fires, a new coalition, called the RIP Coalition, has been formed in the UK to campaign for the same standard in the UK.

Reduced ignition propensity cigarettes are different from standard cigarettes as they have ultra-thin concentric bands or "speed bumps" to restrict oxygen access to the burning end of the cigarette, causing the cigarette to go out if not "puffed" by the smoker. Tobacco industry documents reveal that the "speed bump" production technology has been available for 20 years, but the industry has chosen not to make these cigarettes for the UK market.

The RIP Coalition is made up of the Chief Fire Officers Association and fire services across the country, as well as the British Burn Association, public health organisations and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. It is joining forces with the EU RIP Alliance to push for new legislation to introduce a RIP standard for cigarettes across Europe, which could reduce the risk of fires by up to two thirds. This week is crucial, as on Wednesday 15th November the General Product Safety Directive regulatory committee is meeting to discuss the introduction of such a standard.

The UK, Ireland, Sweden and Finland are already supportive of this legislation, as is the European Commission, but support from the majority of Member States is needed in Europe to ensure that only RIP cigarettes are manufactured and sold in the UK.

More information: www.ash.org.uk/media-room/press-releases/rip-coalition-calls-for-new-cigarette-standard-to-cut-fires

Dr Margaret Chan of China - new Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO)

After her appointment, Dr Chan told the World Health Assembly she wanted to be judged by the impact WHO's work has on the people of Africa and on women across the globe.

In her acceptance speech, Dr Chan said: "what matters most to me is people. And two specific groups of people in particular. I want us to be judged by the impact we have on the health of the people of Africa, and the health of women... Improvements in the health of the people of Africa and the health of women are key indicators of the performance of WHO."

"All regions, all countries, all people are equally important. This is a health organization for the whole world. Our work must touch on the lives of everyone, everywhere," she said. "But we must focus our attention on the people in greatest need."

Dr Chan was nominated as Director-General on Wednesday, 8 November 2006 by the WHO Executive Board and her appointment was confirmed on Thursday, 9 November 2006 by the World Health Assembly. The Director-General is WHO's chief technical and administrative officer. She was previously WHO Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases and Representative of the Director-General for Pandemic Influenza.

Dr Chan obtained her Medical Degree from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and also has a degree in public health from the National University of Singapore. She joined the Hong Kong Department of Health in 1978, and was appointed as Director of Health in 1994. As Director, she launched new services focusing on prevention of disease and promotion of health. She also introduced new initiatives to improve communicable disease surveillance and response, enhance training for public health professionals, and to establish better local and international collaboration. She has effectively managed outbreaks of avian influenza and the world's first outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Dr Chan told the Assembly that as Director-General she would focus on six key issues for WHO: health development, security, capacity, information and knowledge, partnership, and performance.

She emphasized the importance of global health security in her vision of the Organization's role: "Health security brings benefits at both the global and community levels. New diseases are global threats to health that also bring shocks to economies and societies. Defence against these threats enhances our collective security."

Underlining the importance of strong systems to deliver health care to the people who need it, she said: "All the donated drugs in the world won't do any good without an infrastructure for their delivery. You cannot deliver health care if the staff you trained at home are working abroad."

She especially praised the people who deliver health care. "The true heroes these days are the health workers with their healing, caring ethic. They are determined to save lives and relieve suffering, and they work with impressive dedication, often under difficult conditions. The world needs many, many more of them."

Dr Chan underlined the diverse approaches needed to strengthen health and health care in different parts of the world. "Many countries in Africa face the challenge of rebuilding social support systems. Others in central Asia and Eastern Europe are undergoing transition from planned to market economies. They want WHO support. They want to make sure that equitable and accessible systems built on primary health care are not sacrificed in the process."

She said she would strengthen WHO's commitment to gather, analyse and build recommendations based on evidence: "I plan to set up a global health observatory to collect, collate and disseminate data on priority health problems. I will integrate WHO's research activities to more strategically address a common health research agenda."

There is a growing number of initiatives and players in the field of global health. Dr Chan said she would work strategically with partners to deliver the best possible results for global health. " Today, collaboration to achieve public health goals is no longer simply an asset. It is a critical necessity. WHO needs to develop an approach to collaboration that emphasizes management of diversity and complexity."

Turning her attention to the internal management of WHO, Dr Chan said: "I will also accelerate human resource reform to build a work ethic within WHO that is based on competence, and pride in achieving results for health."

She also addressed the challenges ahead of the Organization: "As we know, not all of the problems faced by WHO in its efforts to improve world health are subject to scientific scrutiny, or yield their secrets under a microscope. You know the ones I mean: lack of resources and too little political commitment. These are often the true 'killers'."

Ending her address, Dr Chan repeated her pledge to work hard to improve the health of people around the world. "The work we do together saves lives and relieves suffering. I will work with you tirelessly to make this world a healthier place."

Dr Anders Nordström, appointed by the Executive Board as Acting Director-General of WHO in May, will continue in this role until a new Director-General takes office.

For more information contact: Christine McNab, Acting-Director, WHO Communications Department | Tel: +41 22 791 4688 | Mobile phone: +41 79 254 6815 | E-mail: mcnabc@who.int

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Sheila Pantry OBE BA FCLIP, Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd, 85 The Meadows, Todwick, Sheffield S26 1JG, UK | Tel: +44 (0) 1909 771024 | Fax: +44 (0) 1909 772829 | Email: sp@sheilapantry.com | www.sheilapantry.com | www.oshworld.com | www.shebuyersguide.com | www.oshupdate.com

The Closing Event of the Safe Start campaign will be held on Thursday 22nd March 2007 at the Euskalduna Conference Centre in Bilbao, Spain

A formal opening plenary session with contributions from the key political partners will be followed by three Workshop sessions running simultaneously until lunchtime. Delegates will have a choice of one of the three thematic workshops.

After lunch, there will be keynote speakers and presentations from some of the 2006 Good Practice and Video Competition Awards winners with a closing statement from the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Vladimír Spidla, Presentations to Good Practice and Video Competition Awards winners will be made at the end of the afternoon followed by a drinks reception and buffet.

In addition, for the first time, an Exhibition area will show examples of the activities and events that took place throughout Europe during the European Week, and there will be opportunities to participate in quizzes and competitions during the day.

For more information and to register your interest please write with your full name and contact details to: information@osha.europa.eu

Nanotechnology: Next Big Thing, or Much Ado About Nothing? More Research Key to Healthy and Safe Nanotech Workers

In less than a decade, nanotechnology is predicted to result in $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods annually. Already, there are over 300 manufacturer-identified nanotechnology-based consumer products on the market-ranging from computer chips to automobile parts and from clothing to cosmetics and dietary supplements (see: www.nanotechproject.org/consumerproducts). By 2015, over 2 million workers will be making these and other nanotechnology products.

But little is known about potential risks in many areas of nanotechnology-and funding for risk-focused research is a small fraction of what is being spent on nanotechnology commercial applications. Greater resources and attention are needed now in order to ensure safe nano-workplaces today and in the future.

That is the conclusion of Andrew Maynard, Chief Science Advisor of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, in a new article, "Nanotechnology: The Next Big Thing, or Much Ado about Nothing?" in BOHS's journal, Annals of Occupational Hygiene. His article will appear in print in January 2007 and currently is freely available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/annhyg/mel071. It is based on his Warner Lecture, delivered as the opening lecture at this year's BOHS Annual Conference.

"Because nanotechnology is a way of doing or making things rather than a discrete technology, there will never be a one-solution-fits-all approach for nanotechnology and nanomaterials workplace safety," states Maynard. "That is why the federal government needs to invest a minimum of $100 million over two years in targeted risk research in order to begin to fill in our occupational safety knowledge gaps and to lay a strong, science-based foundation for safe nanotechnology workplaces."

According to previous analyses done by Maynard, despite investing more than $1 billion annually on nanotechnology research, current US government spending on highly relevant nanotechnology risk research is only $11 million per year.

In the short term, because of incomplete information, Maynard stresses the need to supplement good hygiene practices in the workplace with nano-specific knowledge. While initiatives such as the ORC Worldwide™ Nanotechnology Consensus Workplace Safety Guidelines, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) "Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology," and the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) "Review of Safety Practices in the Nanotechnology Industry," provide invaluable resources for working as safely as possible with engineered nanomaterials, Maynard believes we still have a long way to go.

Until more research is available, Maynard proposes developing a "control banding" approach to nanotechnology workplace risk - a course of action that is between inaction and banning all nanomaterials as hazardous. This could involve selecting appropriate control approaches based on a nanomaterial "impact index" centred on composition-based hazard, and perturbations associated with their nanostructure-like particle size, shape, surface area and activity, and bulk-size hazard - and on an "exposure index" representing the amount of material used and its "dustiness." "This is still very much at the conceptual stage," says Maynard. "But unconventional problems need unconventional solutions, and these in turn will require a serious investment in relevant nanotechnology risk research."

"The presence of engineered nanomaterials in the workplace today poses an immediate challenge to how occupational safety and health is managed," maintains Maynard. "So far, we have a number of 'red flags' that indicate some might present a new or unusual health hazard-like recent research done with rodents suggesting that nanometer-diameter particles are capable of being transported from the nasal region of the respiratory tract to the brain, and circumventing the blood-brain barrier."

"While it is by no means certain that this particle size-dependent exposure route is significant in humans," notes Maynard, "we cannot avoid the fact that there is an overwhelming level of uncertainty over which nanomaterials and nanotechnologies present a potential risk, and why they do. In the long-run, safe nanotechnologies will not become a reality unless these uncertainties are addressed systemically, and this means conducting adequate strategic research."

British born, Andrew Maynard is an internationally recognised leader in the fields of aerosol characterisation and the implications of nanotechnology to human health and the environment. Dr. Maynard joined the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2000. He was instrumental in developing NIOSH's nanotechnology research program. In 2005, he joined the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as Chief Science Advisor for their Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Dr. Maynard received his Ph.D. in ultrafine aerosol analysis in the UK, at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

About Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide.

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative launched by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2005. It is dedicated to helping business, government and the public anticipate and manage possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology. For more information about the project, log on to www.nanotechproject.org.

Contact: Anthea Page, Communications Officer, BOHS, 5/6 Melbourne Court, Millennium Way, Pride Park, Derby, DE24 8LZ | E-mail: anthea@bohs.org | Tel: 01332 250701