The aim of the project commissioned by Cefic was to identify: strategic approaches of managing chemicals-related risks in SMEs; the factors supporting the application of those strategies; and the factors determining their effectiveness.
The outcomes of the project are an overview of approaches and tools to manage chemical risks in SMEs, as well as some evidence of the size of the problem. In Sweden, inspectors found rather poor risk management in SMEs, most of them lacking even the very basic instruments such as substance registers and product lists. Reasons for that are seen in a lack of resources and time. The support that inspectors and other OSH institutions could provide is apparently not called upon/used. Furthermore, the regulatory pressure to carry out a risk assessment is too low (too few inspections of SMEs). Whether the tools provided are too complex and not appropriate for SMEs cannot be fully judged, due to the lack of evaluation studies. It is apparent, however, that the acceptance of the tools by SMEs is rather poor.
It was found that communicating well the context of risk management work to SMEs is crucial to convey the importance - and complexity - of proper risk management. Even more so, it is of utmost importance that the right intermediaries disseminate risk assessment strategies and tools and demonstrate their use in SMES for the success of their implementation. However, due to very limited information on the use of risk management materials and tools by SMEs and a lack of evaluation studies thereof, the tools themselves as well as their effects can hardly be described or measured.
EU Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Brussels, Seminar; Chemical substances at work: facing up to the challenges