STOP-strategy explained

Occupational hygiene strategy for substances

STOP Keeps you safe!

The basis for a good approach to prevent exposure to substances is a good inventory of all substances in the company. Based on this, you can take effective measures. Always follow the STOP strategy when choosing measures. This is a more concrete elaboration of the occupational hygiene strategy for working with substances.

Inventory hazardous substances

Substances (gases, solid (liquid) substances, mists, smoke, etc.) can be present in the workplace in different ways. Inventory which substances:

  • are used
  • are created
  • arise during work
  • are in stock

When making an inventory of substances, also consider substances that are used in, for example, maintenance and cleaning work.

There are different types of substances

  • Toxic substances
  • Explosive substances
  • CMR substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic for reproduction).
  • Allergenic substances

There is often a lot of emphasis on toxic and explosive substances, because the risk and the effect of exposure follow each other quickly. However, CMR substances and allergenic substances can be at least as dangerous after prolonged exposure. Don’t rule out the effects of allergenic substances, such as flour dust and paprika pollen: you can develop eczema and severe asthma, which sometimes makes it impossible to continue working.

Several sources can help with the inventory of substances in the workplace:

Suppliers of substances are obliged to provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). The purchasing department can actively ask for this if the information is missing. Naturally, this information must be translated into concrete measures in the organisation. The SDSs are an important source of information for this, but they often prove difficult to apply in the translation to the workplace. On the one hand because they are too extensive, on the other hand because they are often too complex and, moreover. This does not alter the fact that the MSDSs are an important source of information about the substances that are purchased.

In this you are guided in a structured way through the four steps that the inspectors of the Labor Inspectorate also follow during their checks in the Netherlands.

Some branche associations provide information about the substances used in the industry. So be sure to check with your branche association whether they have information about specific risks and solutions for substances used in the industry.

In arbocatalogi (Dutch via risks and solutions are described. You can of course also get inspiration from health and safety catalogs from other sectors.

Assess risks

In order to be able to take targeted measures so that employees can work safely with substances, it is important to properly map out the risks of the substances that have been inventoried. You assess the risks related to working with the hazardous substances that occur – or may occur – in your company and to which your employees may be exposed. Subsequently, the STOP strategy must be applied in order to arrive at the correct measures to remove or reduce the exposure risks. Several sources can help identify and assess exposure risks:

In this you are guided in a structured way through the four steps that the inspectors of the Labor Inspectorate also follow during their checks in the Netherlands.

The Hazardous Substances Guide (Wegwijzer gevaarlijke stoffen) is a tool in Dutch for taking measures in a structured manner to ensure healthy and safe working with hazardous substances. If you know or suspect that employees are dealing with hazardous substances during work, you can map the dangers by going through the steps and draw up a plan to tackle the bottlenecks. After assessing the exposure and devising and selecting solutions, you can start implementing the safe working method. This tool provides a lot of information about how best to design the implementation. The signpost concludes with a description of how the solutions can be evaluated and safeguarded.

STOP strategy

The STOP strategy stems from the occupational hygiene strategy mentioned in the Dutch Working Conditions Act. In the STOP strategy, the steps have been translated into more concrete explanations for working with hazardous substances. To take measures, you start at step 1. If substitution is not possible, you look for technical measures, measures, etc.

  1. Substitution: replace a hazardous substance with a non-hazardous or less hazardous substance.
    Read more about substitution >>
  2. Technical measures: technical measures that help to prevent exposure
    Read more about technical measures>>
  3. Organizational measures: work arrangements that help to prevent exposure and reduce exposure of employees Read more about organisational measures >>
  4. Personal protective equipment
    Read more about personal protective equipment >>

The STOP strategy is not without obligation!

In the Netherlands it is an obligation under the Working Conditions Act to take measures in order of the STOP strategy. Only if substitution is not possible, or if it is not realistic, for example due to enormous costs, should technical measures or other solutions be considered. Please note: for CMR substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic for reproduction) it is mandatory to replace the substance if there is a better alternative, even if this entails enormous costs.


If there are changes in the work process, new risks can arise. Think, for example, of changing working methods, the use of new substances or changing legislation and regulations. With an annual check you keep the inventory and measures up-to-date. The employer is responsible for informing employees about the risks of exposure to substances and for properly explaining the measures. Do not forget to include this as standard when training new employees. There is also an obligation to supervise the workplace.

An emergency plan must be in place in the event of an accident or incident. Employees who are exposed to hazardous substances must be given access to a periodic occupational health examination (PAGO).

Exposure Control Efficacy Library (ECEL)

ECEL 3.0 is a searchable library of Risk Management Measures in the field of occupational and environmental risks (RMM). The tool is free, but you do need to register. You can evaluate the quantitative effectiveness of a specific RMM and search for the most appropriate RMM for a particular exposure or emission scenario.

Go to ECEL

Roadmap on Carcinogens

Do you want to know more about the STOP strategy specifically for carcinogens? Then take a look at the extensive factsheets about carcinogens. They are all also available in Dutch.

Go to Roadmap on Carcinogens