Working with hazardous substances

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

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 also make sure to protect people living near your company as well as the environment.

Risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E)

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

Major accident hazards and additional RI&E (Brzo and ARIE)

Depending on the amount of the hazardous substances your company manages, 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).

Additional risk inventory and evaluation

An additional risk inventory and evaluation (ARIE) document describes how you must deal with the consequences of serious accidents involving hazardous substances on your business premises. An ARIE report consists of the same elements as the risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E).

Brzo 2015

The Major Accidents (Risk) Decree 2015 (BRZO 2015) focuses on the risks to the environment. You must take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents from happening or to limit their consequences. It is the Dutch translation of the European Seveso Directive. The BRZO 2015 contains a new classification of hazardous substances. Please check with InfoMil if the BRZO 2015 applies to your company.

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(Chapter 4, Article 4.4).

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 (Chapter 4, Article 4.3), you must take measures.

Diesel engine emissions

The exhaust gases from diesel engines are called diesel engine emissions (dieselmotoremissie, DME, in Dutch). These exhaust gases contain soot with carcinogenic substances. You must prevent your employees from coming into contact with diesel engine emissions. Is that not possible? Then you should minimise the contact of your employees with these gases.

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 RI&E before you start working with wood (in Dutch). 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 RI&E.

Digital tools

The Agency of Social Affairs and Employment 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.

For more information on specific hazardous substances you can also use the Substancecheck app (Stoffencheck app, in Dutch) by the NLA. This app provides information about, for example, the risks involved when working with hazardous substances and which measures to take.