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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd

News from around the World

News Archive

August 2009

Health and safety in hard times: EU-OSHA Director Jukka Takala advises to think carefully before cutting back on investment in OSH

Writing in the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work's Annual Report for 2008, Jukka Takala argues that companies should think carefully before cutting back on their investment in occupational safety and health (OSH), in the face of global recession. "There is no point in making short-term gains at the cost of long-term problems", he writes. "All of our work shows that the more healthy workplaces are, the more productive they also tend to be."

EU-OSHA's mission is to make Europe a safer, healthier and more productive place to work, by collecting and disseminating information on OSH, and examples of good practice. Its activities are guided by the EU Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work, 2007-2012, which aims to bring about substantial reductions in work-related accidents and illness across Europe.

Key achievements in 2008, highlighted in the report include the Agency's Healthy Workplaces campaign on risk assessment, which is the cornerstone of health and safety management. The campaign has so far involved more than 7,000 participants in seminars, training events and workshops, with some 2 million print publications being distributed. The campaign is a good example of how EU-OSHA works with its partners to reach workers in Europe.

With the launch of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), EU-OSHA has begun to identify what is currently being done, both in private- and public sector workplaces, to deal with psychosocial and other risks.

Another focus in 2008 were emerging chemical risks with a new report finalised, the last in a series of flagship reports which have also examined physical, psychosocial and biological risks. Together, they establish the state of knowledge in these fast-changing areas, and highlight particular subjects that need to be the focus of research or policy-making.

Finally, the Agency's Strategy for 2009-2013, which was agreed in 2008, sets out how EU-OSHA will work in the years ahead to reduce the high cost, both human and economic, of occupational accidents and work-related diseases. The Strategy sets out a clear role for EU-OSHA in co-ordinating the many different efforts that take place in OSH around Europe, helping to identify common problems, and sharing information and good practice.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work was set up by the European Union to help meet the information needs in the field of occupational safety and health. Based in Bilbao, Spain, the Agency aims to improve the lives of people at work by stimulating the flow of technical, scientific and economic information between all those involved in occupational safety and health issues.

Further reading:

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The usefulness of Critical Incident Technique (CIT) in eliciting plant competencies (RR 724)

The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) conducted the research on which the present report is based for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The research was contracted to examine the relationship between competencies and the reasons for accidents and incidents involving construction plant operators. The present research is the Pilot Phase of the project and is meant to establish the efficacy of a critical incident technique method.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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MALDI/TOF/MS Analysis of isocyanates and other hazardous workplace chemicals (RR 725)

Mass spectrometry has long been used to analyse samples taken in the workplace, and can be combined with other techniques to increase sensitivity, selectivity and accuracy. The work summarised in this report examines the application of the recently developed Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization/ time-of-flight/ mass spectrometry (MALDI/TOF/MS) technique to the analysis of isocyanates and biocides. Isocyanates were measured on filters (to represent air monitoring) and as isocyanate/protein conjugates (representing biological monitoring). Selected biocides bound to soil samples were analysed by MALDI/TOF/MS as examples of chemicals linked to more complex matrices: this use of MALDI/TOF/MS as an extraction process is a novel application of the technique.

MALDI/TOF/MS was found to be suitable for the analysis of isocyanate-derived protein conjugates and inflammation pathway metabolites in biological samples. Further work is required to develop quantitative biological methods based on this study. MALDI/TOF/MS was also found to complement existing analytical methods, such as conventional gas and liquid chromatography, for monitoring isocyanates in workplace air and biocides in a complex environmental matrix such as soil. The lessons learned during this study can be transferred to other occupational hygiene sampling applications.

This study was carried out in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

Lessons learned from the Large Organisations Partnership Project (LOPP) (RR 686)

The Large Organisations Partnership Pilot (LOPP) was a joint initiative, launched in October 2005, between the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) to explore how engagement with large organisations (defined as having > 10,000 employees in the UK, with multi-site operations), could be improved.

The objectives of LOPP were:

However, the purpose of this research is not to evaluate the extent to which these objectives have been met. The LOPP community (regulators and organisations involved) recognise that, at the end of three years of LOPP, the pace at which the various partnerships have developed has resulted in a wide variance in the maturity of the different relationships, and this would not provide a useful database for analysing the effectiveness of established partnerships at which the above objectives are aimed. Nevertheless, the experience over the three years provides a useful database for drawing practical lessons, and determining the factors which influence the establishment of LOPP-style relationships, for any future HSE/LA engagement with large organisations. The research findings outlined in this report is intended to help identify these lessons.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

Chemical Skin Hazard Strategy Revised by the US NIOSH to Provide More Useful, Detailed Notations

The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced a new strategy it will use to help employers, workers, and others to better identify the occupational hazards posed through skin contact with chemicals in the workplace, and to take effective precautions.

The strategy is described in a new publication, "NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin 61: A Strategy for Assigning New NIOSH Skin Notations". It revises and updates the framework used by NIOSH for developing notations in the "NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards" to identify occupational skin hazards posed by workplace chemicals. Work-related skin diseases account for an estimated 15 percent to 20 percent of all reported occupational diseases in the U.S., with total annual costs of up to $1 billion. The Pocket Guide is widely used by safety and health professionals, businesses, and workers to identify and safeguard against potential occupational hazards from workplace chemicals.

Under the new strategy, NIOSH will develop notations for the Pocket Guide to identify whether skin contact with a given chemical can result in direct effects such as skin irritation or skin corrosion, immune-mediated effects such as allergic contact dermatitis or asthma, systemic effects (toxic effects to the body's biological systems, resulting from the absorption of the chemical through the skin), and/or fatal effects from extreme toxicity. For example, a chemical for which skin contact would result in the direct effect of irritation would have the notation "SK: DIR (IRR)." Also, when numerous hazards are associated with skin contact, notations would be assigned accordingly; for example, a chemical associated with systemic toxicity and corrosion through skin contact would be identified with the notation "SK: SYS-DIR (COR)."

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2009-147:

Process Safety Leadership Group (PSLG) principles document

Representatives of Britain's high hazard industries, regulators and the unions have published for the first time a set of principles for 'process safety leadership' - top-level engagement in dealing with significant risks to people and the environment.

The agreement sets out eight principles for senior industry figures to follow, including requiring board level involvement and competence in safety management, putting process safety leadership at the core of a business to ensure risks are properly managed, and engaging and involving the workforce in managing safety.

What's All This Noise?

US NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational safety and Health) offers a new software product designed to make record keeping and analysis easier for determining, recording, and controlling noise exposures associated with daily mining work tasks.

New reports from the OECD on Safety of Engineered Nanomaterials

The international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the following three new reports on the safety of engineered nanomaterials: