PROBE study maps exposure to chemicals


A pilot project has shown that one in two Belgian workers on average is exposed to chemical substances. The findings of the small-scale pilot project are part of the PROBE study. For the first time, as a result of the study, we now have reliable data on the exposure of Belgian workers to dangerous chemical substances.

The Belgian Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue launched the PROBE study in early 2016. The goal of the 'Hazardous chemical Products Register for Occupational use in Belgium was to systematically collect and analyse data on the exposure of Belgian workers to chemical substances. Occupational physicians were not registering exposure data in a uniform way.

Pilot project provides valuable data

In the PROBE study, sentinel general practitioners are changing practices. In this approach, the occupational physician completes a questionnaire together with the employee during the periodic health surveillance. The questions focus on the duration and level of exposure to 22 different chemicals that workers often come into contact with, such as lead, asbestos, diesel exhaust and wood dust.

A small-scale pilot project already yielded some valuable insights. For example, 47% of the workers surveyed came into contact with one or more chemical substances. It also showed that the majority of male over-50s were working in small manufacturing and production companies. In addition, the figures reveal that prevention leaves a lot to be desired in many companies: 54% of workers exposed to diesel exhaust do not have collective or personal protective equipment or do not use it.

Researchers recommend far-reaching roll-out

The FPS ELSD is now seeking to optimise and roll out the sentinel approach to allow occupational physicians to survey workers on a larger scale. In addition, the researchers are calling for more objective measurements in the workplace. A single national knowledge centre sould be set up to develop a uniform policy on the basis of the collected data. This approach should investigate the exposure of Belgian workers even more effectively.

Source: FDS ELSD: 2016 - Research into the exposure of Belgian workers to hazardous chemicals (PROBE)

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