What is the background?

We all live and work in a toxic soup of chemicals and workers are often the first to be exposed, exposed the most and their health considered least.

We know from research that lowest paid workers are most at risk and are multiply exposed to toxic substances at work, in the environment and in their homes. We also know that Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) are based on effects on a young male body, leaving many women, more exposed to toxins, in addition to WELs not being a safe standard for any worker.

In 2019, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre (GMHC) bid for £10,000 from the Confederation Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) Alex Ferry Foundation Grant to develop practical solutions to tackle the major toxic exposures in their industries and identify the barriers to reducing them. The grant would be used to develop practical solutions which would:

  • deliver a strategy to reduce and eventually stop workers being exposed to toxic substances using a Toxic Use Reduction (TUR) approach, based on knowledge of their hazards, the methods to use and practical success achieved elsewhere

  • Ensure that sex/gender issues of different hazards and harms for women and men are fully integrated in to the evaluations and solutions

  • Expose the hazards of air pollution at work

  • Draw from existing information and knowledge, share good examples and case studies, share reputable sources of information and advice to provide practical help to safety reps, improve their skills, use existing laws and ability to use a TUR approach.

To this end we held a conference Feb 2022 and then ran a survey during 2022 which both gathered information and suggested further communication and advice. At the National Hazards Conference we put on a display to raise the issue and ensured that ventilation, air filtration and other solutions were integrated in the conference in workshops, meetings and fringe events. During 2021-2022 we also supported air monitoring being carried out with Global Action. In the North West this resulted in one of our key case studies at GIST Warrington.

Further, we have developed this website so that information can be updated and shared easily and also added the information to our 'Trainingsafe' APP so that workers have different options to access it. Finally we are developing training material to communicate, educate and campaign on the issues to support workers.

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