Occupational Health & Social Responsibility

| August 10, 2007

I attended the meeting of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for ISO TC 207 this week (TC 207 is the ISO technical committee that develops international environmental management system standards).  It was held at the same venue where the U.S. delegates to the ISO Working Group on Social Responsibility were having their meeting.  According to my discussions with a colleague who attended that meeting, progress on the ISO Social Responsibility standard is slow.

It reminded me of my thoughts after attending the American Industrial Hygiene Conference in Philadelphia this year.  One of the “hot” topics at the conference was the setting of occupational exposure limits (OELs).  With the European Union’s REACH legislation coming into force, determining appropriate occupational exposure limits has become an important concern for many companies.

It is not; however, really a new issue.

Recently, when I was reviewing some old files, I came across a World Health Organization (WHO) Technical Report published in 1977.  The title of the publication — Methods used in establishing permissible levels in occupational exposure to harmful agents.

This report is a summary of the conclusions of a WHO Expert Committee that met in August of 1976 for the purposes of reviewing the information available on methods used to establish permissible limits, providing advice to developing countries on appropriate approaches and identifying gaps in knowledge.

What did I find interesting in this report, almost 30 years later?

The Recommendations.

I found the following particularly poignant:

“Industrial nations should ensure that multinational corporations and national aid programmes fulfill their ethical responsibility to consider occupational health needs.  Industrial development should be planned to prevent and not repeat the lamentable mistakes of the past that caused serious occupational health problems.  Multinational companies have a responsibility to ensure that permissible levels accepted by these companies in developed nations are not ignored in developing nations…”

Unfortunately, this recommendation is as relevant today as it was in 1977.

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2007)

Category: Standards & Certification

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