KATHMANDU, June 8: In commemoration of World Environment Day 2023, the Center for Public Health and Environment Development (CEPHED), in collaboration with IUCN, WCEL Nepal Chapter, successfully conducted a "Multi-stakeholder Dialogue on Occupational & Chemical Safety and Health Issues in Nepal."
The event organized on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Mohan Katuwal, vice-President of the Federation of Nepali Small and Cottage Industries and advisor of CEPHED, saw the presence of various distinguished guests and experts in the field.
The dialogue aimed at addressing critical occupational and chemical safety and health concerns in Nepal and fostering collaboration and discussions among multiple stakeholders. A significant highlight of the event was the release and public disclosure of three groundbreaking research reports, marking the first of their kind in Nepal.
The first research report, "Compliance Monitoring of Permissible Exposure Limits of Noise at Workplace," emphasized the need for monitoring noise levels in various industries. Another study, titled "Study of Phthalates in Erasers, the Most Popular School Stationery," focused on investigating the presence of harmful chemicals in commonly used erasers. The third report, "Study of BPA in Thermal Paper," shed light on the detection of Bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper, highlighting potential health risks associated with its usage.
Distinguished guests from diverse sectors, including government officials, occupational safety and health experts, and representatives from non-governmental organizations, participated in the event. Their collective expertise contributed to meaningful discussions regarding the urgent need for legislation, regulations, and responsible regulatory bodies to address occupational and chemical safety and health issues comprehensively.
Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MoLESS) Danduraj Ghimire inaugurated the program by planting trees and launching a video message on "Beat Plastic Pollution" released by UNEP in observance of World Environment Day 2023. Following the inauguration, the chief guest and other esteemed participants jointly unveiled the research reports.
Executive Director and Environmental Scientist of CEPHED Ram Charitra Sah outlined the objectives of the program, which aimed to disseminate compliance monitoring reports on noise exposure limits and other chemical safety issues in Nepal. Mr. Sah also provided a summary of the findings from the studies conducted, including the compliance status of noise exposure limits in different industries and the presence of harmful substances in erasers and thermal paper.
Participants shared their views and emphasized the importance of swift action from state authorities, governments at all levels, businesses, and consumers to address occupational and chemical safety and health issues. The chairman of the inauguration session, Mr. Mohan Katuwal, expressed his confidence that the multi-stakeholder interaction would significantly contribute to advancements in this field, considering its multifaceted nature.
A technical session, led by Dr. Ravi Sharma Aryal, Chairperson of IUCN, World Commission on Environmental Law, Nepal Chapter, facilitated further discussions on the subject matter.
Executive Director Ram Charit Sah highlighted the concerning state of compliance monitoring of permissible exposure limits in workplaces across Nepal. The study analyzed industrial areas in the Kathmandu Valley, including Balaju Industrial Area, Patan Industrial Area, and Bhaktapur Industrial Area, and identified gaps in noise pollution control measures. Recommendations were made for implementing engineering and administrative controls to mitigate excessive occupational noise and protect workers' health.
Additionally, the study revealed several labor law violations, such as employees working more than the prescribed hours. Sah stressed the importance of raising awareness among industry owners and workers regarding the government's prescribed noise exposure limits.
Another significant aspect of the event was the international study conducted as part of the EDC FREE ASIA campaign. The study examined eraser samples and thermal paper samples from multiple Asian countries, including Nepal. Findings indicated high levels of phthalates in erasers and the presence of BPA in thermal paper, both of which are toxic and considered endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Experts presented additional working papers on the legal basis for noise exposure limits in the workplace and their implementation status. Prof. Dr. Tara Sapkota, Mr. Krishna Prasad Gyawali, Director General of the Department of Labor, Employment and Occupational Safety (DoLOS), and other renowned figures provided valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the studies.
The event concluded with a call to action, urging the government to address occupational and chemical safety issues in Nepal. The proposed actions included the development of a national chemical safety policy, the establishment of infrastructure for blood lead level screening, and the implementation of mandatory standards for children's toys and cosmetics. Furthermore, Nepal was urged to advocate for the inclusion of high-mountain plastic pollution in the upcoming UN Treaty on Plastic.
The multi-stakeholder dialogue showcased the collective commitment and determination of various sectors to tackle occupational and chemical safety and health concerns in Nepal. The event's outcomes will contribute to informed decision-making and pave the way for a safer and healthier working environment for all.