Working safely with dangerous substances

Cosanta in Vietnam

Koen Verbist, senior consultant at Cosanta BV travelled to Vietnam at the end of May.

Vietnam is a country that produces articles like clothing, shoes and outdoor garments. With work in China also shifting to Vietnam, rapid growth is occurring there. This is an industry that still works a lot with hazardous substances like carcinogenic benzene. Unfortunately, many employees in Vietnam are exposed to hazardous substances every day as part of their work, so many of these employees frequently put their health at risk in many of these factories.

Fortunately, there is an increasing attention on improving the working conditions, and many organisations in Vietnam are striving to do something about it. Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is such an organisation. FWF has been working for more than 15 years to improve working conditions in the clothing industry. However, there is a need to increase the knowledge about hazardous substances not only within FWF but also among the factories and local partners in Vietnam.

The Nederlandse Vereniging voor Arbeidshygiëne (NVvA, the Dutch association for labour hygiene) is also contributing through the Buitenland Beurs (foreign grant scheme).

Cosanta BV, the owner of Stoffenmanager®, helps companies manage the risks of working with hazardous substances. Our organisation also feels that it is important to share our knowledge in this area with other countries. Everyone should be able to work in a safe and healthy way. That is why Koen Verbist travelled to Vietnam at the end of May together with André Winkes (Arbo Unie) and Hester Dekker (Arbo Unie) to see what they could do.

Their aim was to contact local authorities, factory owners and Health & Safety (H&S) auditors, and to gain insights into the level of knowledge present there as well as to identify what kind support we could offer from the Netherlands.

Koen and Andre stayed in Vietnam for a week and visited two factories, a printing plant and a shoe producer. They spoke with local authorities active in the textile industry, such as the local Chamber of Commerce, the textile industry organisation (VITAS), Better Work, some health and safety auditors and some factory owners.

The outcomes from the talks will be used as and input to develop practicable materials for the health and safety auditors to be used in their audits. The use of Stoffenmanager can also help to understand the health risks and the effects of control measures at the work place.

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