Updated: Mar 28, 2020
SUPPORTED BY WORKPLACE SCIENTIFICS
24TH JANUARY 2020
2020 is off to a great start and the industry of occupational hygiene, health, safety and environment is becoming more acknowledged by a wider audience.
2020 has already seen the release of the new EH40 - Workplace Exposure Limits document, of which contains significant changes in exposure limits for Hardwood Dust, Chromium VI, Refractory Ceramic Fibres and Vinyl Chloride Monomer- and rightly so. This shows that increased levels of toxicological research has initiated positive change to ensure workplaces around the UK are maintaining even lower levels of exposure. Failure to do so may result in prosecution.
The British Occupational Hygiene Society is ever-growing, regaining and adding to their faculty membership figures for 2020, showing that more people are looking to further learn and educate themselves around occupational hygiene disciplines. This development of understanding is sure to help occupational hygienists thrive by becoming a key component in any health and safety system or operational team.
Amongst these recognised industrial achievements from an occupational hygiene, health and safety perspective, we must continue to recognise there is still more to be done.
Workplace Scientifics is striving to raise awareness about issues and short-falls prevalent in the industry. We find ourselves wondering if more could be done on a worldwide government level to help develop a globally harmonised system in which common industrial issues are acknowledged, reviewed and acted upon in a unified way. We, amongst other Occupational Hygiene professionals, would welcome such a globally recognised initiative which would help raise international standards and promote higher levels of education around Health, Safety and Wellbeing of employees. Particularly, in third-world countries and more ‘underdeveloped’ locations.
We all know that some countries outside of Europe and North America fall short of the high standards that the likes of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) expect across UK businesses and industries. I’m sure we are in agreement that every human being deserves to work in a safe environment whilst earning a living and providing for their families.
As today (24th January 2020) marks the first-ever International Day of Education, we wanted to back the initiative and celebrate what the future holds for millions of businesses and employees, but also highlight some issues that need addressing in order to reduce occupational disease with regards to the provision of education.
In the UK, the occupational hygiene, safety and environment industry is renowned for its people sharing knowledge and experience. Support of one another through collective training and development with established training providers means that we as occupational hygiene, safety and environmental professionals have a huge support network. This network makes it possible to learn from each other and educate those who are not necessarily in the know about a particular subject area. Nobody competes, everybody supports and develops one another.
I’m sure we speak for our whole industry, but if more professional sectors took the same approach not only in the UK but internationally, we feel that a greater level of knowledge and education would help us flourish and expand to levels which would reap huge benefits for our environment and our safety cultures held within small-medium and large enterprise across the globe.
So why are some countries falling short? We believe the answer is a lack of knowledge and education across continents that are experiencing both financial difficulty and rapid growth of their economies.
For example, countries like China who have seen rapid growth of their economy since the 1980s. A journal created in August 2019 references that the National Health Commission (NHC) announced the latest official data on China’s occupational health data. According to the data, the total number of reported occupational cases up until 2018 was 97 500, and 90% of reported occupational diseases were pneumoconiosis. Of those sampled in 2018, around 12 million businesses presented occupational health risks, with more than 200 million workers exposed to multiple risks, including dust, chemicals, and poison. However, the actual burden of occupational diseases in China is likely to be underestimated because of the low frequency of occupational health checks and the narrow range of diseases defined in the occupational diseases list.
The Chinese Government have in the past declared that they believe the causes of increased work-related ill health, to be a lack of business obeying safety regulations and the incorrect use of personal protective equipment. We believe that increased product output and tight timescales sees occupational hygiene, health, safety and environmental requirements suffer due to heightened workloads. This, coupled with poor education around the subjects, is the more likely reason this issue exists.
Unfortunately, these high figures are also found much closer to home. The HSE Reported around 12,000 lung disease deaths each year estimated to be linked to past exposures at work (2018/2019). In addition to this, around 1.4 million workers were suffering from work-related ill-health (new or long-standing) in 2018/19. 33% of these cases were found to be related to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 23% Non-asbestos related Lung Cancer, 20% Mesothelioma and 20% Asbestos-related lung cancer.
The long-standing figures have driven campaigns such as the Breath Freely Campaign backed by the British Occupational Hygiene Society and the like, with the aim of reducing these figures through a provision of information and awareness.
Expectations set by the HSE are increasingly stringent. We have seen this lately with the Safety Alert associated with exposures to Welding Fume, where companies are now expected to up their game and introduce minimum control measures and provide a greater level of awareness around the subject. The initiative has been driven by research carried out by organisations such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, who reclassified Welding Fume as a group 1 known human carcinogen, proving that international investment in education and research is having a positive impact on our industry as we are continually finding out more and more about such substances and their adverse health effects.
On the other hand, we have countries and businesses who are at a financial disadvantage seeing increased occupational illness whereby their educational systems fall short of UK expectations due to a lack of funding and investment in their industries. That said, there are still industries which lack knowledge and any substantial and effective educational system which helps raise awareness around occupational health, safety and environmental topics which may directly affect those in question in the UK. We can draw from that, that more needs to be done to harmonise and standardise the education around worker health, safety and the environment. Hopefully, with the collectiveness and ever-growing unification of countries and member states, we may see our lesser developed countries improve over time with help from Directives.
On a positive note, let's take a further look at what is being done to educate industries about occupational health, safety and environmental impacts. We have an ever-growing industrial initiative to expand, educate and further develop our knowledge on exposures to hazardous substances, biological and physical agents with regards to appropriate control mechanisms, suitable and heightened levels of competent training and development, of which Workplace Scientifics is proud to deliver to your industry.
In the UK we have:
Enforcing bodies who regulate the industry, but also provide an abundance of useful information with regards to health, safety and environmental good practice and guidance (the Health and Safety Executive being the largest corporate body).
An increased number of occupational hygiene professionals taking on higher levels of education provided by training providers approved by the British Occupational Hygiene Society.A greater level of awareness and media coverage of environmental issues which are creating larger scale interest and drive to create change.
Higher standards recognised by corporate bodies which help drive businesses to achieve recognised accreditations such as ISO. Some of which are required for the supply of goods and service between businesses. Such drives to achieve accreditations promotes safer working practices through increased education and implementation of advanced control systems to meet the requirements set by the accreditor.
More university and college degrees and diplomas which cover health, safety and environmental studies.
Improved medical advances and research into occupational disease helped by ever-growing research and development into work-related illnesses allowing for greater levels of learning for people new to the industry.
More charitable organisations raising money and awareness to help fund education and research into things like Cancer, Motor-neurones Disease, Alzheimer's, Dementia, Parkinson's Disease, Cardiovascular Disease and more.
It's safe to say that we are moving forward with regards to the education and provision of knowledge and information around occupational hygiene, health, safety and environment. Albeit, there’s much more work that can be done, we are moving in the right direction.
Here at Workplace Scientifics, we are passionate about educating our clients and their workforces with the goal of providing an increased level of awareness around workplace exposures, including the negative effects these have on individual health and wellbeing.
If you are looking for a business which is highly passionate about improving your workplace culture and behaviour around occupational hygiene subjects in relation to biological, chemical and physical exposures. Workplace Scientifics would be the business to help drive you forward towards achieving your health and safety training aspirations.
If you require any further information around our educational and team training and development sessions, then get in touch today to take advantage of your free expert consultation.
(T) 01709 931299