Risk of cancer - Yleistä

Substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction are called CMR substances. The abbreviation CMR comes from the words carcinogenic (causes cancer), mutagenic (damages the genes) and reprotoxic (hazardous to reproduction). Their use at workplaces is governed by stricter regulations than other chemical agents.

The employer must protect the employees from carcinogenic and mutagenic chemicals and chemical agents.

The following table presents chemicals typically found at Finnish workplaces and their hazardous properties:


  Carcinogenic Mutagenic  Reprotoxic
Ethylene oxide x x  
Vinyl chloride x x  
Benzene x x  
Acrylamide x x  
1,3-butadiene x x  
Hydrazine x x  
Propylene oxide x x  
Epichlorohydrin x x  
Trichloroethylene x x x


In all activities that pose a hazard of exposure to carcinogens, the employer must assess the nature, amount and duration of exposure to employees as well as the risks to the safety and health of employees and implement the necessary measures.

The employer must primarily substitute the carcinogenic or mutagenic substance with a less dangerous substance, mixture or method.

Hierarchy of control measures

With regard to hazardous substances, employers must follow the hierarchy of control measures below:

  • If possible, the use of the hazardous substance must be stopped by changing the product or the process, in which the substance is used.
  • If the use of the hazardous substance cannot be stopped, it must be substituted with a harmless or less dangerous substance.
  • Hierarchy of contro measures.If elimination or substitution of the substance or process is impossible, technical or organisational solutions can be used to prevent or reduce exposure. Such solutions include controlling the source of emissions (closed system or removing the impurities in air at the source) or reducing the number of employees being exposed to the hazardous substance and reducing the duration and intensity of exposure.
  • According to law, the use of personal protective equipment is the last measure to be taken when exposure cannot be sufficiently controlled by other means.

Control measures

In addition to this, the employer must use the following control measures in all activities that involve carcinogenic or mutagenic agents:


  Control measure Tried and tested
practical observations
1 Limiting the amount of hazardous substance and use of the working method at the workplace

The primary aim is to reduce the use of or substitute the hazardous substances. It is not always possible to reduce the use of or substitute these substances; certain chemicals are needed. In that case, plans should be made considering the time of usage of these substances or when the work phases in question are carried out. It is then possible to implement control measures, such as isolating the work area in advance or restricting access to the area or carrying out the work phase when as few employees as possible are present.

2 Ensuring that the number of employees actually or potentially exposed to the substance remains as low as possible 

Isolating the work area in question in advance or restricting access to the area or carrying out the work phase when as few employees as possible are present. Using warning signs or alarms, for example, to warn about the use of the substances in question at the workplace.

3 Designing working methods and technical control measures so that the release of hazardous substances at the workplace is either completely prevented or reduced as much as possible Taking the handling of hazardous substances into account already at work planning phase, such as automating and/or encapsulating the work phase. Making the ventilation more effective and using efficient filter (e.g. HEPA filters for particles).
4 Removing hazardous substances released into the air as close as possible to the point of release at the workplace by using local exhaust ventilation systems or general ventilation

Carrying out the work phase e.g. in a fume cupboard or in an area with local exhaust ventilation. Using devices at work with integrated dust extraction (such as angle grinders, grinding machines, saws). Correct use of mobile extraction arms.

5 Using appropriate existing procedures to measure the hazardous substances in the workplace air, in particular for the timely detection of abnormal exposure due to unexpected incidents or accidents Personal dosage meter (e.g. 3-gas meter, dosimeter). Carbon monoxide alarm. Continuous measurement of chemical concentrations in the work area using sensors. A feature enabling sensory detection added to the chemical – such as colour. High concentration alarm.

Appropriate working methods and procedures

Work planning and training. Taking advantage of automation and avoiding manual work phases. Good occupational hygiene. Instruction in how to use personal protective equipment, store it appropriately and keep it clean, if applicable. General tidiness of the workstation.
7 Primary general protection methods or, in areas where exposure cannot be avoided through these or other means, personal protection methods Taking the use of hazardous chemicals into account already at the work and work phase planning stage. The work phase must be planned so that personal protective equipment is not needed. Protection methods should be drawn up in writing and the employees should be informed about them.
8 Hygiene measures, especially regular cleaning of floors, walls and other surfaces Cleaning the premises regularly with correctly selected cleaning equipment so that cleaning does not spread carcinogenic dust, for instance. If necessary, disinfecting the workspaces.
9 Informing the employees

The employees have the right to know that the chemicals used at work are hazardous to health. The employees must be trained and educated in handling hazardous substances, and their skills must be maintained by means such as regular training. Safety data sheets easily available to all employees.


Marking off the danger zones and using appropriate warning and safety sign

Danger zones can be marked with a sign indicating a ‘Serious health hazard’ (GHS08 sign) as well as the additional text: Substances hazardous to health in use!
11 Planning in case of emergencies that may lead to an unusually large amount of exposure Identifying hazards and assessing risks are extremely important in drawing up a plan. As far as possible, emergency situations should be considered at the work phase planning phase. First aid must be available in case of an emergency in addition to e.g. emergency showers and other protection options in the workspaces. Occupational health care must be aware of the use of hazardous chemicals.
12 Safe storage, handling and transport methods (especially closed and clearly and visibly marked containers)

Storage with instructions – the employees must know the storage location assigned to each substance. The substances should preferably be stored in their original containers placed inside spill trays/basins.

General tidiness of the storage: possible splashes and runoff must be cleaned off appropriately; passages must be kept clear.

13 Safe methods for collect, store and dispose of waste, including closed and clearly and visibly marked containers

Named persons are responsible for waste management. Separate, marked containers for hazardous waste.

Note that waste oil is included in the hazardous waste in question.



The employer must keep all risk assessments and the information used as a basis for them and deliver this information to the appropriate occupational safety and health authority in the case the employer goes out of business. If necessary, the employer must ensure that the employees receive appropriate health examinations before exposure and at regular intervals after it. Health information must be kept for a period of at least 40 years from the date of exposure.

Young workers

Labour legislation protects young workers, i.e. employees under the age of 18. Young employees may not be assigned work that could harm the health of the young person, for example. For this reason, certain especially harmful work can only be assigned to young people if certain conditions are met.