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Working with hazardous substances

This information is provided by Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

Nederlandse versie

Hazardous substances are dangerous for humans, animals, and the environment. They may be explosive, poisonous or carcinogenic. If you own a company in the Netherlands you must take measures to avoid or limit exposure of your employees to hazardous substances while carrying out their work. You must do so to the greatest degree possible. You must also make sure to protect people living near your company as well as the environment. When taking measures, you must follow the workplace hygiene strategy.

Risk assessment and evaluation (RI&E)

Any dangers within your business are stated in your company’s risk assessment and evaluation (RI&E). The RI&E also describes the protective measure you take. You are obliged to conduct an RI&E and it should always be available to your employees.

Major accident hazards and additional RI&E (ARIE)

Does your company work with dangerous substances? Depending on the amount of these substances there are extra lower-tier and higher-tier requirements. These requirements are governed by the Major Accident Decree (Besluit risico’s zware ongevallen, Brzo), based on the European Seveso Directive, and the supplementary Risk Inventory and Evaluation (ARIE, in Dutch)

Workplace hygiene strategy

Are your employees at risk of exposure to hazardous substances such as asbestos, explosives, or acids? You must take measures to prevent or minimise this exposure. You have to follow the workplace hygiene strategy, as is stated in the Working Conditions Decree.

Assessing exposure

You should assess how much dangerous substances your employees may be exposed to. You can have an expert do this, or you can estimate this with the use of a computer model.

There are several ways a hazardous substance can enter a body. For instance through inhalation, ingestion (swallowing), or through the skin. You need to take this into consideration when you make an assessment. If the result of a measurement is higher than the legal limit, you must take measures.

Digital tools

Arboportaal has developed a digital tool called the Substances Manager (Stoffenmanager). This multi-language tool describes what measures you can take in your company. You can choose your language in the top-right corner. Various sector-specific substance managers are available. The Netherlands Labour Authority (NLA) has drawn up a self-assessment service for working with hazardous substances (in Dutch), with which you can assess if you and your employees handle hazardous substances in a correct and safe manner.

Diesel engine emissions

Diesel engine emissions (exhaust gases from diesel engines) consist of gases and soot. Soot may cause cancer. To protect your employees against these emissions, you must take measures in a specific sequence. To start: replace diesel engines, this is mandatory for forklift trucks with a capacity of less than 4 tonnes that are used inside a building. If replacement is not possible: reduce emissions, install soot filters, isolate working areas, limit the amount of inhalation and provide employees with protective respiratory equipment.

Sawdust and quartz dust

Sawdust (houtstof) is the result of sawing, sanding or planing wood. Exposure can be harmful to people’s health. You must ensure that the exposure to sawdust remains below certain limits set by law.

Sawdust is also capable of causing dust explosions. Therefore, you need to compile an explosion safety document (explosieveiligheidsdocument) as part of your risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E) before you start working with wood. This document has to investigate the explosion risk in all parts of your company and state how you plan to minimise risks.

Quartz dust (kwartsstof) is released when processing materials that contain quartz. For example, drilling or milling in a concrete ceiling or brick wall releases quartz dust into the air. The legally set limit for quartz dust is 0,075 mg/m3 during an 8-hour working day. Exposure can be limited by using protective clothing, regularly cleaning the workspace and ensuring sufficient ventilation. Sandblasting with materials containing more than 1% quartz is not allowed.

You are obliged to evaluate exposure to sawdust and quartz dust in your risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E).

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
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