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|A PROJECT INVOLVING TRADE UNIONS, EMPLOYERS’ GROUPS and experts in the Netherlands has come up with an extensive web site offering health and safety help and information. The five organisations, which give the site its name of ‘5xbetter’, comprise small businesses, with a total of 135,000 employees, larger firms that employ altogether 180,000, plus the three union federations (FNV, CNV, De Unie) that represent both manual and managerial workers in the metalworking industry. There are also nine named ‘improve coaches’ each covering a specific area of the country who can visit workplaces, sometimes by request from a user of the Internet site. .||
||They can also offer advice on topics such as solvents, harmful noise and fumes. The web site also includes an online dictionary in twelve languages including Polish, Turkish and Arabic aimed at migrant workers. The dictionary contains more than 400 words specific to the industry in six categories (work equipment, processing/handling, materials and products, risk, action and auxiliary words) and is billed as ‘a tool for communicating with foreigners in the workplace’. A brochure and a fact sheet are also available in Dutch only|
The ‘5xbetter’ web site provides health and safety information to metalworkers
THE FIRST GROUP OF CHEMICALS HAVE BEEN PLACED on the list to be phased out by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), now nearly three years old, under the REACH regulations. The six substances, which will not be able to be used without special authorisation after 2015, are Musk Xylene, MDA, HBCDD and three phthalates: DEHP, BBP and DBP. Uses vary from flame retardant to perfume fixer and resin curer while phthalates are generally employed in softening plastics, including babies’ dummies until this practice was banned by the EU. Criticised by trade union health and safety experts and environmental groups for their tardiness in finding candidates for the banned list, the ECHA added another eight last December which will be considered for inclusion later this year. However CEFIC, the European Chemical Industry Council commented that ‘there is the blacklisting effect of being on the candidate list as a substance of very high concern’ whether or not the compound is eventually prohibited and that each application for authorisation costs €50,000. As well as banning the six substances EU Member States voted to widen the criteria for assessing whether a chemical is persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) and very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB). Green group WWF were pleased that more data would now be considered as declaring a substance to be in one of these categories should lead to it attaining candidate and even banned status.
‘Harmful’ night work on the rise in France
Figures from the French ministry of labour suggest that there has been a large increase in the number of people working regular or occasional night shifts and confirm the deleterious effects on the health of these workers. In 2009 15.2% of employees in France worked nights representing 3.5 million people, a million more than in 1991. The rise is especially pronounced among women, 9% are now night workers compared to 21.4% of men. Health care, security and transport are the sectors most likely to employ them, in occupations such as nurses, midwives, drivers, firefighters and members of the police and armed forces.
The French government study estimates that fifteen or more years of night work risks reducing the ability to perform ordinary tasks by up to 50%. This is not just due to upsetting the normal rhythms of sleep and work but also because there is more exposure to chemicals, stress, time pressure and physical strain on night shifts. Friction with both the public and management is also more common although support from co-workers was found to be greater than in daytime jobs.