Preventing RCS exposure in the workplace
Doing what is necessary to prevent silicosis and cancer in the workplace
Protecting workers’ health, and preventing diseases such as silicosis and cancer, is of paramount importance. That is why governments, unions and industries where RCS dust exposure poses a risk are working to implement measures to protect workers.
Thankfully, crystalline silica-related diseases can be prevented through the application of good practices in the workplace, ensuring, and going beyond, regulatory compliance. Effective control of those industrial processes also helps to ensure that any release of dust into the surrounding environment is kept to a minimum.
Industry and Unions
In 2005, a series of industries where RCS exposure may be present and Trade Unions representing workers joined together to develop good practices for protecting workers’ health. Together, they set up a body called the European Network for Silica (NEPSI), whose mandate is to share and provide guidance on these good practices, and encourage the continual improvement of health and safety standards. This ensures that all parties have the tools needed to protect workers’ health by doing the right things to minimise exposure to RCS.
NEPSI was funded by the EU and its good practice and guidance on managing RCS exposure are freely available. They give companies clear and easy to implement steps to protect the health of their employees. This includes practical advice on reducing the amount of RCS dust produced and enhancing effective ventilation in industrial workplaces.
The NEPSI measures have already been implemented across sectors and are extremely effective, so much so, that a newly updated EU Directive ‘on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work’ (2017/2398/EC) names NEPSI good practices as a benchmark of “valuable and necessary instruments to complement regulatory measures and in particular to support the effective implementation of limit values…” Another amendment of the Directive (2019/130/EC) encourages social partners to conclude agreements like the NEPSI Agreement to complement regulatory measures, and requests that the list of such agreements should be published on the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) website. The sectors involved in NEPSI are committed to ensuring that their good practices continuously support the legislation.
IMA-Europe has developed NEPSI 2.0., a guide on how to implement NEPSI principles into companies’ health and safety executive management systems. The guide explains the requirements of management systems in relation to workers’ health protection, and provides a wealth of tried and tested tools that can be applied in any workplace.