This third annual ASSE PDC global safety and health briefing is intended to provide a high level overview of current issues, trends or challenges which may impact multinational companies' management of workplace safety and health around the globe. This paper also provides resources to assist in finding solutions to these challenges.

As the time of this writing, some of the key issues, trends and challenges include:

  • Chemical Substance Management: EU and Asia are Leading the Way

  • Corporate Governance, Executive Leadership and Workplace Health and Safety.

  • Pandemic Preparedness

  • China: Hazardous Substances Management

  • India: Challenges and Opportunities

  • "Safety in the Global Village" - A Business Resource

  • OHSAS 18001 & ISO OHSMS

I. Chemical Substance Management: EU and Asia are leading the way

The European Union

The European Union (EU) continues to extend their global lead enacting far reaching and standards setting environmental health and safety legislation. This is currently seen in the Chemicals Management arena with the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH), Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) regulations. RoHS and WEEE regulations are based on the restriction or elimination of hazardous substances used in products, components, etc. within the EU.

While the purpose of this briefing does not allow a detailed analysis of REACH, it is important to point out that regulations are having a significant impact upon and offering many challenges to a wide variety of industry sectors throughout the world. Chemical and non chemical manufacturers and importers are challenged to interpret these regulations and determine whether they apply to their products manufactured or imported into the EU.

The management of chemicals in the EU will be overseen by a newly constituted, Helsinki based European Chemicals Agency. The initial requirements under the REACH regulation call for registration, evaluation and authorization of all chemical substances in "articles," alone or in preparations. This is based on tonnage of the chemical substance used per annum and its hazardous classification as outlined in the regulations. It is the term "articles" that is providing the concern to many multinationals. According to the REACH regulation, an article is "an object which during manufacture is given a special shape, surface or design which determines its function to a greater degree that does its chemical composition." Examples include toys, vehicles, furniture and clothes. According to the regulation, a manufacturer or importer of an "article" must register substances within the "article" if the substance:

  • is intended to be released during use (normal reasonable foreseeable condition) and

  • use exceeds one ton per annum per manufacturer or importer.

Initially, there will be a pre-registration period from June to December 2008. During this phase, there will be an overlap in registering chemical substances by manufacturers and importers of such substances and articles. Once the pre-registration phase is completed, a more rigorous and data driven registration procedure will commence over an 11 year period. (Europa: Environment 2006 and Wyness 2007)

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