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Sustainable development goal five

How IOSH supports this goal

Chemical hazards

Chemicals are used for a variety of workplace tasks, from simple cleaning to complex chemical processes.

They have the potential to harm health temporarily or permanently. They may be used in solid, liquid or gas form; they may be naturally occurring, manufactured, or created as a by-product of workplace processes. An effective OSH management system, including performance monitoring and governance, will control chemical hazards at work.

In the context of environmental concerns and increased focus on the need for responsible resource consumption, the sound management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle makes a valuable contribution to preserving the environment and protecting human health.

The effective management of occupational chemicals contributes to the delivery of the following SDG targets:

  • 3.9 substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination
  • 5.1 end all forms of discrimination against women and girls - this direct measure relates to research identifying higher exposure to pesticides and other OSH issues among women in agricultural work, particularly in developing economies.
  • 11.6 air quality and…waste management
  • 12.4 management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle…and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimise their adverse impacts on human health
  • 12.5 substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.

People and planet share a symbiotic relationship, whereby the protection of one is likely to contribute to the protection of the other. Nevertheless, certain industries still depend on the use of potentially harmful chemicals, particularly so in developing countries where certain worker groups are already disproportionately vulnerable to safety and health risks. While the need to shift away from chemicals harmful to human health and the environment has been acknowledged, this transition may take time. In the meantime, the responsible management and disposal of chemicals will offer protection to workers exposed to them.

The importance of managing risk, including that from chemical hazards as part of good occupational safety and health is recognised by its inclusion in IOSH’s competency framework.

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