ECVET-LAB: Implementation and Validation of Non-formal Training on Sustainability for Environmental Testing Laboratories workers


1 Oct 2016 - 30 Sep 2018

Environmental Testing Laboratory operations have significant environmental impact ranging from energy and resource consumption to chemical and equipment use and disposal. Moreover, the management of air pollution from laboratory fume hoods, greenhouse gas emissions from cooling appliances, noise from certain lab equipment and wastewater from lab sinks, are issues that all staff working in Environmental Testing Laboratories must know and participate in their improvement.

Experience shows in many cases that this impact could be reduced or avoided in cost-effective ways without compromising safety and they can often be enhanced. Minimising chemical usage in particular can create tangible results such as reduced costs through better chemical management, improved safety and more effective compliance with regulations.

In the 7th Environment Action Programme, 'Living well, within the limits of our planet', the EU formulates an engaging vision of the future to 2050: a low carbon society, a green, circular economy and resilient ecosystems, as the basis for citizens' well-being. Yet, looking ahead, the EU environment state and outlook 2015 report by European Environmental Agency highlights major challenges linked to unsustainable systems of production and consumption and their long-term, often complex, and cumulative impacts on ecosystems and people's health.

Achieving the 2050 vision focuses actions in three key areas:

  • protecting the natural capital that supports economic prosperity and human well-being;
  • stimulating resource-efficient, low-carbon economic and social development;
  • safeguarding people from environmental health risks.

ECVET-LAB Project aims to contribute to the improvement of these three key areas by training Environmental Testing Laboratories staff so they can implement the best practices in their respective labs:

  • conserving natural resources: water, energy, raw materials, which are consumed in laboratory activities
  • applying measures for improving the material resource efficiency and energy efficiency on equipment and lighting, as well as renewable energy
  • protecting people from the chemical or biological risks, by means of the suitable wastewater pollution prevention and safe waste management

The EU is striving to be a low carbon economy by committing to the Energy and Climate Package which sets out provisions for EU Member States named the 20/20/20 commitment. Therefore, in an EU Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency the EU designed to remove barriers to energy efficiency and calls for public bodies to set an example on energy efficiency. In many instances, the laboratories are public bodies or engaged by a public body as a supplier, and as such, has an important role to play in this field.

Also, laboratories are a main producer of hazardous waste in the EU. The Hazardous Waste Directive and the Waste Framework Directive cover identification, storage, managing hazardous waste, but the industry finds it difficult to interpret; in particular the associated technical guidance identifying and explaining management of hazardous waste in the care of the laboratory. ECVET-Lab will also respond to the need for new/improved skills on chemicals and their safe use considering REACH (EC 1907/2006) to reduce the use of chemicals within the EU that are harmful and hazardous to human health and the environment.

Most laboratories, especially smaller ones, do not have staff dedicated specifically to environmental management. Therefore it is crucial to strengthen the training of all those who work in them. The Skills for Green Jobs – European Synthesis Report CEDEFOP 2010 confirms the need for environmental skills and green jobs and the Education and Training 2020 Work programme confirms the need for an ECVET system to validate and recognise accumulated work related skills, mobility and knowledge.

This is why ECVET-Lab partners aim to tackle this need and design a project addressed to develop environmental skills for workers in laboratories, taking into account the recommendation for ECVET implementation and the harmonisation of VET programmes in the EU, beside the existing VET qualification recognised at national level only. Indeed, the transnational nature of this project will be a key element to achieve the development of a common proposal to answer a need identified at EU level. The exchange of knowledge and practical experience among laboratories from different European countries will be very positive for defining the best practices applicable to the sector and promoting their implementation. This project will create a training material on environmental management in order to complement the training for technicians of environmental testing laboratories, both those who are currently working as those who are being trained as future professionals. This training course will be made non-formal open educational resources, and will be widely spread to achieve mainstreaming in formal VET.

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