One of the main levers for upstream integration of occupational safety and health
For more than twenty years now, INRS and the Prevention Network of the French Social Security system (Occupational Risks Directorate and regional prevention services of Social Security and Eurogip) have been involved in French, European, and international standardisation work.
With the "New Approach" European Directives (1989) and the Essential Health and Safety Requirements to be attained, standardisation has become one of the main levers for integrating occupational safety and health as of the design stage (for machinery, work equipment, and personal protective equipment). The Essential Health and Safety Requirements target a high level of protection, leaving it up to the manufacturers to meet those requirements either through their own systems or through conforming to a "harmonised" European standard, or through a combination of the two.
Harmonised European standards therefore carry considerable technical and regulatory weight because they propose technical solutions for attaining the safety objectives of the European directives and they give the manufacturer legal security by providing a presumption of conformity with the essential requirements of the directives.
The majority of French and other manufacturers use the prevention solutions recommended in the standards.
By actively participating in standardisation work, occupational risk prevention specialists are thus watchful to ensure that the main principles of risk prevention are incorporated into standards upstream in the standardisation process. Standards are documents that are disseminated widely and that penetrate powerfully into the economic fabric, and their political role is growing due to the development of the concept of soft law. The aim of INRS is to have the risk prevention culture integrated into those standards.
The fields in which INRS experts are present
Over 50 INRS experts take part in the work of ninety French, European (CEN) and international (ISO, IEC) committees.
INRS experts mainly focus their efforts on work to produce standards for safe product design, the majority of the standards being European and harmonised:
Committees on mechanical risks
Hoisting and lifting equipment, earthmovers, cranes, machine tools, woodworking machinery, food processing machines, machinery for transforming plastics and rubber, industrial maintenance, machine control system safety, trolleys, carts & trucks, goods-handling equipment, lifts, goods lifts, flatbed trolleys, robots, human detection, and personal protective equipment;
Committees on chemical risks
Welding, protective equipment and clothing, surface treatment, wood dust, air quality, assessment of exposure to chemical and biological agents at the workplace, fume cupboards, booths and cabins for applying coatings with organic products, collection of fumes when surfacing roads, searching for lead before doing work in buildings, etc.;
Committees on noise, vibration, and optical radiation
Acoustics, vibration, classification of sources of optical radiation, workplace lighting and light, exposure of the human body to electromagnetic fields, laser equipment safety, and hearing protectors;
Committees in the field of waste and recycling
Waste collection vehicles, baling presses, and compactors;
INRS experts also take part in the work of groups addressing emerging subjects that involve major prevention issues (collaborative robots, nanomaterials, biotechnologies, wind turbines, etc.).
INRS is continuing to involve itself in the international work in progress in the field of occupational health and safety management (draft Standard ISO 45001), so that it incorporates the vision of the French trade unions and employer organisations on occupational risk prevention (need to have employees or their representatives participate, obligation on the employer to deliver results on risk prevention, development of the risk prevention culture in the company, and having health taken into account to the same degree as safety, etc.).
European co-operation that is essential
At European level, INRS is a founder member of Euroshnet, the European network for occupational safety and health. It participates in the work of the steering committee and in leading the network alongside the Central Institute for Labour Protection (CIOP – Poland), the German Social Accident Insurance body (DGUV – Germany), EUROGIP, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), the National Institute for Safety and Health at Work (INSHT - Spain), and the Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardisation (KAN – Germany).
EUROSHNET is the network for cooperation between European OSH professionals active in standardisation, testing, certification, and/or related research. EUROSHNET has the purpose of setting up a process of communication and cooperation between European OSH experts.
The EUROSHNET communication platform will, first and foremost, facilitate contacts between OSH experts, accelerate the discussion process and the elaboration of consensus views, and place them on a wider footing.