Protecting workers from chemical hazards and toxic exposures
Workers have a right to be protected from exposure to toxic substances on the job, according to the United Nations. The UN's principles for protecting workers from toxic exposures cover responsibilities to prevent exposure, the importance of information and remedies.
The international organization’s plan aimed at protecting workers from toxic exposures was discussed in a story in Safety+Health, the online magazine of the National Safety Council.
15 ways to protect workers from toxic exposures
The UN report on “Principles on Human Rights and the Protection of Workers from Exposure to Toxic Substances” was released on Sept. 9, 2019 in a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.
Here are the UN’s 15 principles urged to protect workers from toxic exposures:
- All workers must be protected from exposure to toxic substances on the job.
- Governments have a duty to protect the human rights of workers through the prevention of exposure to toxic substances.
- Businesses have a responsibility to prevent occupational exposure to toxic substances.
- Hazard elimination is paramount in preventing occupational exposures.
- Duties and responsibilities to prevent the exposure of workers to toxic substances extend beyond borders.
- Governments must prevent third parties from distorting scientific evidence or manipulating processes to perpetuate exposure.
- Protecting workers from exposure to toxic substances protects their families, their communities and the environment.
- Every worker has the right to know, which includes knowing their rights.
- Health and safety information about toxic substances must never be confidential.
- The right to safe and healthy work is inseparable from freedom of association, the right to organize and the right to collective bargaining.
- Protection must be offered to workers, representatives of workers, whistleblowers and rights defenders from intimidation, threats and other forms of reprisal.
- Workers, their families, and their communities must have immediate access to an appropriate and effective remedy, which should be available from the time of exposure.
- Workers or their families should not bear the burden of proving the cause of their illness or disability to access an effective remedy.
- Depriving workers of their right to a safe and healthy workplace should be a crime.
- Governments should ensure accountability for cross-border cases of workers harmed by occupational exposures.
Injured at Work? Your Fight Is Our Fight.
The report was presented by the UN’s Baskut Tuncak, a lawyer, chemist, and specialist in toxic substances. Millions of workers are forced to make “the abhorrent choice” between their health and their income, and millions more are poisoned without their knowledge, Tuncak said.
Over 2,780,000 employees globally die from unsafe or unhealthy conditions of work each year, according to the UN’s International Labour Organization. The incidents of exposure are considered to be an underestimation because of gross underreporting in some countries.
The dangers lie in coming in contact with industrial chemicals, pesticides, dust, radiation and other substances.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said American workers use tens of thousands of chemicals every day. These exposures present hazards such as irritation, sensitization and carcinogenicity (ability to induce tumors). They also present risks of fires, explosions and corrosion.
Information about the identities and hazards of the chemicals must be available and understandable to workers, according to OSHA. That will ensure chemical safety in the workplace, they said.
Contact Vellner Law in Bethlehem and Allentown Pennsylvania today for help in protecting workers from toxic exposures.