Moving towards safer alternatives

Elke Schneider

The substitution of chemicals is a fundamental measure to reduce risks arising from the use of dangerous chemicals in products and processes. European Union law places elimination and substitution at the top of the hierarchy of control measures for protecting workers from the risks related to chemical agents, carcinogens, and biological agents.

Substitution can also support risk reduction for the environment, consumers and public health. Substitution can be accomplished by the use of an alternative, less hazardous substance or an alternative work procedure. In many cases other technologies that do not need hazardous chemicals can be applied.

The main aim of the SUBSPORT project, cofinanced by the LIFE+ programme of the European Union but with a specific focus on workplace protection, is to develop an internet portal that constitutes a state-of-the-art resource on safer alternatives to the use of hazardous chemicals. It will not only be a valuable source of information on alternative substances and technologies, but will also provide tools and guidance for substance evaluation and substitution management. The portal is intended to support companies in fulfilling substitution requirements of EU legislation, such as those specified in the Chemical Agents and the Carcinogens Directive, those under the REACH authorisation procedure, or the Water Framework Directive.

The project Expert Committee that steers the activities of the project group and which includes representatives from EU-OSHA, held its first meeting in Denmark last week.

As well as providing input on the structure and content of the project deliverables, with its participation EU-OSHA will provide valuable support with contacts to networks who might have direct access to information about substitution cases at enterprise level or contacts for example at sectoral level.

EU-OSHA will also provide expert input to the choice of substances and uses, many of which reflect OSH priorities.