EP Approves Rules to Protect Workers From Cancer

05.09.2017 -

The European Parliament (EP) has approved new rules to protect workers from carcinogens and mutagens in the workplace, with the aim of saving up to 100,000 lives over the next 50 years. The Employment Committee voted in favour of the legislation by 42 votes to none, with eight abstentions.

Under the proposal, which has already been informally agreed with EU ministers, employers will have to assess the risk of exposure for workers and take preventive measures. The rules include a lower occupational exposure limit (OEL) – a maximum quantity of harmful substances that workers can be exposed to – for chromium VI, vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) and hardwood dust.

The Committee said it hoped this would tackle the primary cause of work-related deaths in the EU, which is cancer. The most common types of occupational cancer are lung cancer, mesothelioma (caused by exposure to asbestos particles) and bladder cancer.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every tenth lung-cancer death is closely related to workplace risks.

MEPs have also ensured that the Commission will have to assess the possibility of including reprotoxic substances (those that affect sexual function and fertility) by the first quarter of 2019. A recent study showed that more than 1% of workers are exposed to reprotoxic substances, meaning that between two to three million in the EU could be affected.

The EP will put the draft directive to a final vote during an upcoming plenary session in Strasbourg, France.