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Occupational hygiene is assessed during workplace visits, with measurements and during health checks. Work instructions and communication are also needed. Health risks are reduced with technical means, protective equipment and training, among other measures.

Chemical agents

The basis of chemical safety at workplaces is knowledge of what chemicals are in use, their properties and the hazards associated with their use. In addition, the workplace must determine whether harmful chemical exposure agents are generated in the work or work processes. Hazards related to exposure agents must be assessed and measures taken to ensure that the risks are under control.

Safe handling of chemicals at the workplace

The hazards posed by chemical substances depend on their properties and quantities and methods of use. Chemicals can be hazardous to health and the environment, and they may pose a risk of fire and explosion.

The safe use of chemicals at the workplace requires that the hazardous chemicals in use are listed and that the user has the necessary information on their properties and safe use for working safely. An up-to-date list of chemicals and safety data sheets are the most important sources of information for the assessment of chemical agents.

When selecting chemicals, the aim is to obtain a product that is as harmless as possible and suitable for its intended use. The amount and handling of waste resulting from the use of chemicals, such as packaging waste and contaminated work tools, must also be taken into account.

Chemicals must be procured in a centralised manner. In this way, the procurement of parallel products for the same purpose is avoided and it is possible to list the chemicals in use efficiently. Centralised procurement also has financial significance as the procurement and storage of unnecessary substances is avoided. 

When procuring personal protective equipment, such as gloves and respirators, care must be taken to ensure that they are suitable for the intended use and worn in accordance with the instructions.

All chemicals used at the workplace must be listed in the list of chemicals in alphabetical order according to their trade name. The list must include the classification information of the chemicals and the information on the availability of the safety data sheet. Classification information refers to warning symbols and hazard and precautionary statements (H and P) as well as any properties that may cause a specific hazard.

It is also advisable to include in the list of chemicals the purpose and places of use of the chemical as well as estimates of the use and storage quantities.

The exposure assessment determines the nature and magnitude of employees’ exposure to chemicals. The following are recorded during the assessment:

  • who are exposed, where they are exposed and what they are exposed to
  • exposure time and nature of exposure; continuous, sporadic
  • inhalation and dermal exposure
  • risk of splashing, risk of ignition
  • control measures in place.

It is important to utilise the expertise of occupational health care when assessing the hazards and risks of chemical and biological agents and when determining the necessary control measures.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has determined an HPT value for a concentration known to be harmful for nearly 800 substances and groups of substances. The HTP value is an estimate of the lowest concentration of the substance that may be hazardous to the health of employees.(opens in a new window, you will be directed to another service)

The CLP Regulation contains rules on the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals. Chemical suppliers must inform users of the hazards of substances and mixtures classified as hazardous by using standard labelling.

The workplace must ensure that hazardous chemicals are properly labelled if they are transferred from their original packaging to other containers.

Biological agents

Biological hazards in the working environment include:

Biological agents may enter the body through inhalation, ingestion or pass directly
into the bloodstream through a needle prick or animal bite, for example. Once inside the body, microbes can cause health problems such as respiratory symptoms, asthma, rhinitis or infections.

Sectors with the highest exposure to biological agents:

In the Government Decree, biological agents are classified into four categories on the basis of the risk they pose to the health of employees. The Decree provides guidance on the prevention and reduction of exposure to biological agents and on actions to be taken in dangerous situations.

The Decree also provides guidance on anticipating biological hazards caused by sharp instruments in the health care sector and on the prevention of accidents. The employer must investigate and identify the risks posed by biological agents present in the work and assess their impact on the safety and health of employees. The risk assessment determines the risk groups of the biological hazards, the work phases in which employees are exposed to the hazards and which and to what extent employees are exposed.