A new international report, written by UN expert Baskut Tuncak, claims that exposure of workers to toxic substances is a critical issue that must be addressed by businesses and governments worldwide.
Tuncak deems this issue to be a “global health crisis”. He says, “Workers’ rights are human rights. No one should be denied their basic human rights, including the rights to live and health because of the work they perform.”
Consequently, he has proposed fifteen principles that aim to help governments and businesses protect workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), two people are killed every minute due to occupational exposure to hazardous substances.
The UN special rapporteur on human rights and toxics has said, "I'm sure it is expensive for companies to trace chemicals through the tiers of their supply chains but it's a cost of doing business. This a responsibility and moral obligation – and in some jurisdictions a legal obligation."
Findings from the report
The report’s findings, which have been collated over four years, highlight that within global supply chains, workers are not being protected from toxic exposures.
The textile industry faces a major issue in terms of chemical exposure to workers. Those who work in textile mills, particularly those who are engaged in textile dying, printing and finishing, are exposed to a range of dangerous chemicals.
Tuncak wants to strengthen the efforts of businesses and governments to protect workers from exposure to toxics. The UN expert has stated in his principles that businesses must ensure that information regarding worker exposure to hazardous substances is accessible when products are being purchased or used.
Who is responsible for criminal liability?
The report declared that governments should ensure that criminal liability for exposing workers to hazardous substances is included in national legislation. Tuncak states that cases should be investigated and prosecuted to ensure that heads of business accept responsibility for, knowingly or negligently, exposing workers to chemical substances.
It was also argued that companies and governments are currently failing to meet a duty to uphold the rights of workers under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Moyna Merrison, Director of COSHH specialist’s Alcumus Sypol, said; “This report highlights the growing profile of hazardous substance management, not only as an integral part of health and safety practices, but also as a topic of worldwide political importance."
"While businesses and governments have made great strides to protect the health of workers, there is undoubtedly still more that can be done. The fact that 13,000 people in the UK die every year due to work-related ill health just goes to show the scale of the problem. Standards of worker safeguarding across the world vary considerably, so more robust management of hazardous substances is vital to protect workers wherever they earn a living.”
What you can do to protect your workers
If your employees regularly encounter hazardous chemicals at work, you can prevent or minimise exposure to toxic substances with Alcumus Sypol’s COSHH management system.
Through implementing our software, you can ensure that your staff’s safety is safeguarded. Our COSHH management system enables you to create and deliver task-based COSHH assessments, so you can comply with health and safety legislation with confidence.
To find out more about COSHH management services from Sypol, call 01296 678 484 and talk to one of our experienced specialists.