Chemical safety

ILO/UNITAR Webinar on Chemical Safety and World of Work

On Wednesday 15 July more than 100 participants from all over the world joined a webinar organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) on Chemical safety in the World of Work: A Global View on Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems.

News | ILO, Geneva, Room VII | 21 July 2020
The webinar is part of a series organised under the IOMC Toolbox project funded by the European Union. The IOMC Toolbox is a problem-solving resource that enables countries to identify the most appropriate and efficient national actions to address challenges related to eight different chemicals management schemes. One of the schemes focuses on Occupational safety and health (OSH) management systems, which are essential for protecting workers, their families and the wider community from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals.

The speakers briefed the participants on the ILO role in promoting OSH management systems with a focus on particular work-related chemical exposures, including a spotlight on national experiences from Switzerland and Malaysia. Manal Azzi (Senior OSH Specialist, ILO) highlighted the significant problem of workers’ exposures to chemicals, and reviewed ILO’s role and response mechanisms, which include International Labour Standards, Codes of Practice, OSH management systems, as well as other tools such as the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Halshka Graczyk (Technical OSH Officer, ILO) invited participants to take a deep dive into particular work-related chemical exposures by reviewing the results of a recent scoping study that identified and prioritized a number of classic (e.g., asbestos and pesticides) and emerging (e.g., endocrine disrupting chemicals, nanomaterials) chemical hazards at the workplace.

In addition, insights on national management systems for chemicals in two particular countries were provided by speakers from Switzerland and Malaysia. Kaspar Schmid (State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Switzerland) provided an overview of the national OSH management system for chemicals in Switzerland, highlighting that more than half of the labour force is working with chemicals, and that even though some data exists on occupational exposures, injuries and health effects, there is still a need to improve the data collection and analysis to improve policies. Hazlina Yon (Department of Occupational Safety & Health, Malaysia) presented an overview of the systematic approach to OSH implementation in Malaysia and how it relates to chemical exposures, providing evidence on the importance of inter-agency coordination to streamline policies that meet local and international obligations for OSH and chemical safety.

The recording of the webinar, transcript and chat text can be found here.