What reps and workers need to know about reducing their toxic exposure

Breathing clean air and working in toxic free environments at work should be a human right, but many workers are breathing toxic, unsafe air and working with hazardous substances in their working environment every day and not everyone knows just how unsafe and unhealthy it is. 

It is essential that workers and their trade union reps reduce and work towards eliminating the cocktail of toxic chemicals and hazardous substances that they are being exposed to at work.

This website includes a wealth of information to help trade union reps take action.  The actions must start with finding out what you and your members are being exposed to.  This can be done by carrying out a hazard mapping exercise, or just talking or surveying workers.  Are there any health concerns? What could be causing them?  Here is a list of simple suggestions:

1. Organise a members meeting to discuss air pollution or exposure to toxic and hazardous substances in the workplace or by the work activity. 

2. Audit your workplace.  This could be on ventilation – each area should be audited and documented on the activity, occupancy and length of time that it is occupied, how it is ventilated and if mechanical ventilation/ air filtration units are used, when they were last maintained and any action needed to be taken including CO2 monitoring and purchasing more units. If the information isn’t available then request if from management. Discuss your findings at the safety committee and prepare a plan of action to improve air quality. 

3. Carry out a clean air inspection. Inspect the workplace for obvious signs about dust, dirt and odours or unhealthy working practices for example in the construction or engineering sector. 

4. Monitor air pollution across the entire workplace either by purchasing or using borrowed equipment (monitor inside and outside the workplace). 

5. Circulate a chemical survey to all members to find out what they are working with.

6. Research all the substances being used are covered by data sheets and research the contents and safety measure that should be in place

The following web pages provide information about the law, what employers legal duties are, there are examples of how other workers have reduced their chemical exposure and lots of information to online resources that can help provide arguments with your employer.  

Above everything else as well as trying to reduce the toxic exposure it is important that any substitution of products or chemicals must be Risk Assessed to ensure that new processes or products do not create more risks.

Click on the links below to find out more information:

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