Updated guidance from the EU-OSH (European Union Occupational Safety and Health), released in 2021, has outlined a new commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of workers. VOC (volatile organic compound) and hazardous substance exposure are critical elements that have been given additional focus in the latest strategic framework from EU-OSH. ION Science has long recognised the importance of reducing exposure levels for better working conditions and health, and seeing the new objectives outlining ways to tackle this is a key step forward.
Despite advancements in technology, training, and safety practices, in Great Britain alone in 2020 there were 1.6 million work-related ill health cases. Specifically related to carcinogens, VOCs, and hazardous substances, there were 12,000 lung disease deaths linked to prior work exposures. In one year, an estimated 100,000 cases of cancer can be connected to work related exposures. This is not factoring in mental health illnesses, musculoskeletal disorders, and non-fatal injuries that are also reported each year.
The EU-OSH has made some strong recommendations in the strategic framework, including new protective limit values (much lower than previous allowances) on hazardous substances and VOCs including asbestos, lead, cobalt, benzene, and nickel compounds. This is in part to combat work-related deaths and illness as a result of exposure, but also to improve air quality and tackle the levels of reprotoxic substances (exposure to which can impact on fertility or developing foetuses) that are becoming increasingly present.
Change, Prevention and Preparedness are the three new objectives set out by the EU-OSH to support the plan of action up till 2027. These three objectives are underpinned by supporting elements of: funding, awareness raising, evidence, enforcement, and social dialogue. The ‘one substance, one assessment’ approach has also been reiterated as essential when designing safety recommendations with regards to hazardous substances and VOCs. The EU-OSH have emphasised that respiratory health must be protected and providing adequate safety equipment, as
well as effective monitoring instrumentation, is essential in helping protect against exposure and illness as a result.
Protecting worker health both during employment and for their lifetime is a crucial responsibility of employers. ION Science, as a world-leading OEM for VOC detection instrumentation, provides solutions that help keep staff safe and healthy while working with potentially hazardous VOCs at any concentration. Instruments such as the Cub models offer personal protection for workers, the Tiger for portable use on sites, and fixed units such as the Falco can be positioned to monitor VOC exposure levels around sites that could impact staff or the public.
Supporting the objectives of Change, Prevention and Preparedness compliments the work ION Science are already undertaking. Seeing a greater commitment to better worker health and safety, and a desire to reduce cases of ill-health from poor working conditions or improper exposure management, is at the heart of what ION Science stands for and one of the reasons why it is a leading, global OEM in the field of VOC instrumentation and detection.