Working with hazardous substances must probably become much faster, says FNV: ‘Companies break the rules’

Decades of consultation, but about 3,000 people still die each year as a result of working with hazardous substances. FNV has had enough. The union is leaving the Commission for Dangerous Substances. The message: enforce the current rules first.

“We will no longer set limit values ​​if the laws are not enforced. Then it stops for us,” said health adviser Wim van Veelen, who sat on the committee on behalf of the association for 20 years. According to FNV, the companies do too little, and the Danish Working Environment Authority does not act enough because there are too few inspectors.

‘Everyone said it was safe’

“Making money is crucial, I think, and it is at the expense of citizens’ health,” says Jaco van Heijst from Vlaardingen. For years he cleaned gravestones in cemeteries in Rotterdam with Biomos and became ill from it. That it was due to the drug he used at work came as a surprise.

“Everyone said Biomos was biological and could not do harm,” Van Heijst says. What he was not told was that he was using the cleaner completely incorrectly: “I was working with a high pressure cleaner when I was not allowed to. I was working in the wrong position and used it without protection.”

100,000 healthy life years lost

According to figures from the Danish Working Environment Authority, at least one employee works with hazardous substances at more than 100,000 companies in the Netherlands. These are substances that can intoxicate employees, be poisoned or substances that can explode. Nearly 100,000 healthy life years are lost each year.

Health adviser Van Veelen from FNV calls the figures ‘a minor disaster’: “Too little is being done about it. There are legal rules, but companies are simply ignoring them.” The union believes that the government and employers should take the work of this type of drug much more seriously.

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‘We do more than FNV thinks’

According to spokesman Paul van der Burg, the Danish Working Environment Authority is doing much more than the figures suggest. For example, there is a special team that deals with asbestos violations, the supervision goes around Schiphol, and they are involved in the lawsuit against ProRail regarding quartz dust.

“Our labor inspectors are also looking for hazardous substances under their control. If they find anything, they pass it on to the specialist team, who then take action,” the spokesman said. He considers the work of the Danish Working Environment Authority to be very important. “Supervision is more than just enforcement. For example, the ministry is running a campaign on dangerous substances.”

‘Lifeless campaigns’

According to Van Veelen, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) believes that employers and employees should arrange this. But the government also has a role to play, he says. “Then you see all those lifeless campaigns about working with dangerous substances that should make people aware.”

“Organizations like the Armed Forces, KLM and NS have not complied with the law for years. The dangers of working with Chromium-6 are greatly underestimated, the substance is highly carcinogenic.”

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“The hand’s ultimatum does not provide the solution”

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, like FNV, is concerned about the number of people who die each year or develop health problems as a result of exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace. The Ministry acknowledges that employers’ compliance is currently lacking. But one can see that steps have been taken in recent years.

In any case, stepping down from the SER committee is not the solution: “Giving each other an ultimatum does not fit in with the cooperation and consultation we have on the subject. It does not help to achieve common improvements,” said a spokesman.


Commission on Dangerous Substances

The Social and Economic Council’s Committee on Hazardous Substances (SER) has set limit values ​​for work with hazardous substances, such as Chromium-6 and asbestos. For example, it must be registered which persons are exposed to these substances. In addition, staff should also be informed of the hazards of exposure. The Danish Working Environment Authority must then ensure that employers comply with the law.

‘Set more pace’

According to the ministry, it is up to SER to decide how they will proceed without FNV’s participation in this committee. “We see the FNV’s decision as an incentive to accelerate. And to implement improvements even faster with the SER parties. In this way, we want to keep the FNV by our side in the fight against injuries caused by exposure to dangerous substances for workers … “

FNV says it will not run away from responsibility by stepping down from the committee. The union wants to continue the fight in the workplace.

Watch the TV report.

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