Better Protection from Cancer at Work

The European Commission wants to set exposure limits for more cancer causing substances to protect workers.

How did we get here?

Cancer is the first cause of work-related deaths in the EU. Every hour, 7-12 people die of cancer in the EU because they were exposed to carcinogenic (=cancer causing) substances at work in the past. The Commission already took action by setting exposure limits for 13 chemical substances to protect workers from the risks related to exposure to these carcinogens. Yet, several studies have called for the scope of these rules to be broadened. Now, more carcinogens are about to be added to that list.


Why is this important for me?

Because you don't wanna die of cancer. And you want to make sure that your work environment doesn't make you sick.

The extended list is supposed to increase protection for at least 4 million workers and improved clarity for employers and authorities. Together it is estimated that both proposals can prevent over 100 000 deaths caused by work-related cancer. Also, it is just fair if exposure limits for carcinogens are the same across the EU. Otherwise employers in certain countries would benefit from a competitive advantage to the detriment of their workers.


What's the content?

The proposal presented by EU Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen is setting exposure limits for another seven cancer-causing chemical substances (you can find the list here). 

As a result employers must assess risks to workers related to the exposure to these carcinogens at the workplace and must prevent exposure where risks occur. If possible, the substances should be substituted with a non- or less-hazardous process or chemical agent. If this is not possible, chemical carcinogens must be manufactured and used in a closed system to prevent exposure. Member States can adopt a lower (=stricter) national limit if they want to.

On top, the Commission published a practical guide for employers in order to help small and micro enterprises in their efforts to comply with health and safety rules. 


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

The European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee is working on this dossier since the beginning of 2017. The Member States finalized itstheir position during the 'Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council' (EPSCO) Meeting of June 15 and two weeks later they already reached an agreement with Parliament in the trilogue negotiations. Now, the deal needs to be formally adopted the Council and the Parliament.


Related Bills:

Posting of workers

A European Platform to fight undeclared work

Providing Services more easily across borders

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