More protection to employees against carcinogens and mutagens at work

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Credit: Monty Rakusen

Today the European Parliament approved by majority an amendment to the Directive by the Commission related to the protection of workers from the risk related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work.

This third phase of revision seeks to protect workers against excessive exposure on five new carcinogenic substances: Cadmium, Beryllium, Arsenic, Formaldehyde and “MOCA”, and includes the measures necessary to industry to adapt.

In addition, the directive gives the European Commission the mission to find the appropriate instrument to protect workers of health sector against the exposition to hazardous drugs, while not jeopardizing the best treatments available for patients.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the EU. Annually, 53% of occupational deaths are attributed to cancer, compared with 28% for circulatory diseases and 6% for respiratory ones. The most common types of occupational cancer are lung cancer, mesothelioma (caused by exposure to asbestos particles) and bladder cancer. Everyday thousands of employees are exposed to fumes and substances containing carcinogens or mutagens that can damage their health, especially in the sectors of construction, steel, chemical, automotive, wood working, textile and hospitals.

The amended directive is based on scientific evidence, assessed by the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) and on further impact assessment, and social dialogue, by the tripartite Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work (ACSH).

MEP Enrique Calvet Chambon, ALDE shadow on this file said:

“It is essential to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for more than 217 million workers in the EU. One of the main challenges defined in this directive is to improve the prevention of occupational diseases by combating existing, new and emerging risks.

ALDE contributed, as previously, to delivering this very much needed piece of legislation to protect workers. In our view feasibility is key, and this means being able to measure , technically and economically at the work place, the level of exposure of workers to carcinogenic substances.

We understand the limits established as minimum thresholds. We have insisted on encouraging Member States and companies to reduce exposure levels to as far as technically possible below the limit value set. This is another good example of Europe taking concrete measures that will directly affect citizens.”

New rules also will establish that the national authority responsible for the health surveillance of workers can decide that health surveillance must continue after the end of exposure, for as long as needed to safeguard health.

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