Heidi Boussen, Director Safe and healthy work environment at the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment summarised the main challenges: “The sectoral organisations that presented their approach show that we need to translate policy to the shop floor. We need to get away from a high level of abstraction and offer pragmatic solutions adjusted to sectors.”
During the BENELUX-event that was held on 15 May in Brussels, cross-industry and sectoral organisations from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg shared their approaches to support companies to work safely and healthy with carcinogens. Hosts BusinessEurope and the Netherlands explained the importance of exchanging knowledge between cross-industry organisations and the need for ongoing focus for safety and health at work on a European level. This was being stressed by Mr Stefan Olsson of the European Commission, who stipulated that a good working environment, and more specifically working with dangerous substances, will have special attention in Europe, also after the elections. The Commission will release more new exposure limit values for carcinogens, applicable to all European countries.
Many of the participants hoped to learn from each other and the good solutions. Besides, there was much focus on starting the dialogue and increasing knowledge, in the first place for employers. An interactive voting of the audience showed a great demand for practical tools to make the translation for the shop floor.
IMA-Europe (industrial minerals), Volandis (construction), STM (hairdressers, amongst others) and Wood (wood and furniture industry) were selected to present their specific and successful approaches to support companies to reduce exposure to carcinogens.
On the market place, about ten organisations presented their solutions to support companies to reduce exposure to carcinogens and to communicate to employers and employees about the risks of exposure. Long Alliantie Nederland showed the Your lungs at work check. A practical tool to check, as an employee, whether your work exposes you to risks for lung problems (available in various languages). IOSH UK, an outsider in this Benelux-setting, showed, as part of their worldwide campaign ‘No Time To Lose’, their practical pocket cards: clear points of attention in a compact format for employees in construction and green maintenance amongst others.
During a lively panel discussion, led by Kris de Meester on behalf of BusinessEurope (European employers) and Tony Musu of ETUC/ETUI (European employees), the request for practical solutions came to the table again. After all, there is no use in setting new exposure limits if, at the same time, no solutions are provided for companies to meet these limits. An extra note was added that these solutions are preferably sector specific, to offer the most practical solutions.
The conference was closed by some concluding words by Mrs Rebekah Smith of BusinessEurope and Mrs Heidi Boussen of the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs. The conference was considered very useful and interesting. Cross industry and sectorial organisations show that they can make a difference by translating abstract legislation and regulations to practical tools for both employers and employees. The presented examples were very inspiring. Therefore, a next edition of this BENELUX conference is encouraged to share more knowledge and developments between the neighbouring countries.