Handling chemicals in a safe way: Napo and the Agency in action

Dr Christa Sedlatschek, Director of EU-OSHA

The cartoon character Napo has done some great work for us and our partners in the Napo consortium over the years, helping to get our health and safety messages across in a fun and accessible way. We’ve seen him dealing with the hazards of loud noise, tobacco smoke and heavy lifting in the workplace. Now, he’s turning his attention to dangerous chemical substances, and changes in the way that they are packaged and labeled.

About 15% of us work with hazardous chemicals in Europe, and they include some extremely unpleasant things – substances that can burn you, poison you, or cause birth defects or cancer. Being exposed to them even once can cause problems. So it’s vital that we all know exactly what we’re dealing with, when we handle chemical substances in the workplace.
But many of us still can’t recognize the new warning symbols that have been introduced over the last few years, as part of a process of standardisation throughout the world. You may have heard of CLP, which stands for Classification, Labeling and Packaging: it’s the EU regulation that sets out the information that needs to accompany chemicals, concerning the risks they pose, and the way they should be stored and handled. To make it more consistent with the way things are done elsewhere in the world, a new CLP regulation has come into effect, with some changes in it: as well as some of the warning symbols, some of the language used to describe chemicals, and advice on dealing with them, is now different too.
To help people get used to the new system, we at the Agency have launched a new toolkit, which is available online and for free. It includes a short film on the changes to CLP, as well as a range of training materials, and a poster and leaflet showing the new warning symbols and what they mean. In the toolkit we include answers to some Frequently Asked Questions, on the reasons behind the CLP changes and what they mean in practice. It also explains REACH, the EU regulation which deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals: REACH will involve information about the risks posed by chemicals, and how to handle them, being passed down through supply chains, to the people who will be working with them.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that we at the Agency have focused on chemicals – we have an ongoing commitment to ensuring that everyone in Europe who handles dangerous substances as part of their work can do so in a safe way.
To see how Napo makes sense of the new chemical symbols, why not have a look at the video Napo in… Danger: chemicals! ?