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HSA urges safety with chemicals on World Day for Safety and Health at Work

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 Monday 28th April

Today (Monday 28th April) marks World Day for Safety and Health at Work, an International Labour Organisation (ILO) awareness-raising initiative that focuses attention on workplace accidents and illnesses.  The theme this year is ‘safety and health in the use of chemicals at work’.

Workplace chemicals can include solvents, abrasives, glues, resins and paints as well as cleaning agents, maintenance oils and lubricants. Chemicals can also be generated through certain types of work activity, e.g. the fumes generated from welding or dust from the machining of wood. Employers are required to take the necessary steps to minimise exposure to any hazardous chemicals at all times.

Dr. Sharon McGuinness, Assistant Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority says that chemicals can have a number of adverse effects if not managed safely,” Chemicals are present in all workplaces and they need to be properly managed. As well as the potential for damage to human health, employers should also remember that chemicals can have an adverse effect on the environment if they are used, stored or disposed of incorrectly.”

When assessing the risk of chemicals, the advice of the Health and Safety Authority is to follow a simple three step process:

  1. Identify the hazard: identify the chemicals in your workplace and the hazards associated with them.
  2. Assess the risk: assess the risk or process in your workplace.
  3. Control the exposure: consider the various recognised control measures to eliminate or reduce risk.

Further information on chemical safety is available in the free guide entitled ‘Your steps to chemical safety’ which can be downloaded from www.hsa.ie

According to Dr. McGuinness there are a number of reasons to ensure the safe use of chemicals at work, “Safely managing hazardous chemicals is good for workers and good for business. As well as reducing risks to employees’ safety and health, it can introduce cost savings through more effective work practices. It is also important to ensure that the general public are protected from the harmful effects of chemicals.”

April 28th also marks Workers’ Memorial Day, an international day of remembrance when trade unions around the world commemorate the lives lost in workplace accidents. 47 people lost their lives in work-related accidents in Ireland last year while so far this year 17 people have been killed.


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