The European Week for Safety and Health at work warns of exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace


Education personnel are exposed to occupational hazards which can have a disastrous impact on their physical and mental health. These include dangerous substances, which are the focus of this year’s European Week for Safety and Health at Work. Science teachers are not the only ones in danger from toxic chemicals – schools across Europe are still full of asbestos.

Each year, the European Week for Safety and Health at Work is a chance to remind employers and policymakers that the health and safety of workers across Europe matters. The action week of 21-25 October is led by EU-OSHA, the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work, and ETUCE is an official partner of the campaign.

This year’s topic is ‘Managing dangerous substances in the workplace’, a continuation of EU-OSHA’s longstanding Healthy Workplaces campaign. The management of dangerous substances is a key issue in the prevention of occupational risks, and it requires robust rules and comprehensive practices. Workers in the education sector can be exposed to a wide variety hazardous products, from toxic chemicals in science class to fumes and organics dust from cooking in school canteens. The consequences of mistakes and laxity can be felt for decades, as shown by the scandal of asbestos exposure in workplaces. Schools are one of the building types implicated in the asbestos crisis, with students and teachers across Europe still at risk of exposure to the deadly material.

ETUCE and its member organisations take a proactive approach when it comes to education workers’ health and safety. We have recently launched the first European-wide Online Interactive Risk Assessment Tools (OiRA) for the education sector. These tools, which were created jointly with EFEE and in close cooperation with EU-OSHA, aim to prevent and eliminate occupational risks in the sectors of early childhood education and care and secondary education. They guide education institutions through an assessment of many potential risks, including the handling of dangerous substances.

Image creditJennifer Beebe on Pixabay