Completed - Challenge 4.3: Safe working procedures

‘Safe working procedures’ can come in place as accepted alternatives for groups of businesses performing the same activity, instead of performing measurements and comparing with limit values for each company, for each activity, for each substance.

Challenge aim

Safe working procedures (SWPs) can serve as a feasible alternative when substitution is not yet possible or when it is difficult to measure exposure to meet occupational exposure limits. Several EU member states have seen positive results for businesses who adopt these procedures, resulting in a healthier workplace. It is crucial for these procedures to be practical and easily implemented by businesses. The goal of this challenge was to collect information on SWPs and good practices (GPs) from across the EU and share them with stakeholders.

Challenge description

The challenge tasks aimed to gather information on the use and implementation of SWPs and GPs in EU member states and provide advice on how to proceed with SWPs to reduce exposure to carcinogens. To accomplish this, we organized meetings with French and German partners, sent out a questionnaire to all Roadmap partners, and held a workshop with relevant stakeholders. Our goal was to collect valuable insights and share best practices to help reduce exposure to harmful substances in the workplace.

Challenge 4.3 conclusions in a nutshell

Challenge 4.3 aimed to collect information on the use and implementation of SWPs and GPs in EU member states, with a focus on reducing exposure to carcinogens. The challenge revealed that validated SWPs, which are procedures that are accompanied by exposure measurements and meet specific criteria, are scarce in EU member states.

Acceptance of Safe Working Procedures

In the Netherlands, there are currently only two SWPs for asbestos and welding fumes. In Germany, there are clear and elaborate descriptions of exposure scenarios, called EGUs and VSKs, which fulfill several but not all requirements of an SWP.

While SWPs are not yet widely implemented in companies, there are numerous GPs in EU member states, many of which are listed on the Roadmap on Carcinogens website under “Solutions”. However, there are considerable differences among GPs in terms of level of detail, and many are only available in the native language of the country in which they were created, limiting their applicability.

Safe Working Procedure or Good Practice?

One of the main challenges facing the development and implementation of SWPs is confusion over the difference between SWPs and GPs. SWPs are procedures that have been validated with exposure measurements, while GPs have not necessarily undergone this validation process. However, many stakeholders may mistakenly consider GPs to be SWPs, leading to confusion and making it difficult to harmonize working procedures across different companies and countries.

Another challenge is regulatory acceptance of SWPs. In the Netherlands, for example, the Labour Authority does not automatically approve SWPs as standalone products, which has limited the development and implementation of SWPs in the country.

Despite these challenges, SWPs have the potential to be a cost-effective and efficient way for employers to demonstrate that their workers are not being exposed to hazardous substances above the legal limit value. The first step towards the development and use of SWPs is to increase awareness of the concept and its benefits, as well as the cost-effectiveness of using SWPs in the long-term. By doing so, we can work towards creating healthier and safer workplaces across the EU.

Initial idea

Below you can find the original activities, milestones and deliverables that had been envisioned when starting this challenge in 2021.

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