EU revises rules to protect workers from carcinogenic and other hazardous substances

A revision of rules to protect workers of carcinogenic and other hazardous substances has been informally agreed by European Parliament and Council negotiators.

During the negotiations, MEPs secured the inclusion of reprotoxic substances in the fourth revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens at Work Directive (CMD4). These substances have adverse effects on reproduction and can cause impaired fertility or infertility. For 11 of these substances a binding occupational limit value will be introduced in the annex to the directive. As a consequence, the directive will be renamed the carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxic substances directive (CMRD).

MEPs also established that workers who deal with hazardous medicinal products (HMP’s) will receive sufficient and appropriate training, with a view to better protect workers in the healthcare sector. HMP’s are drugs with anti-tumoral activity that contain chemicals of a very high concern that inhibit cell growth and multiplication. The Commission shall, after the consultation of stakeholders, prepare Union guidelines and standards of practice for the preparation, administration, and disposal of hazardous medicinal products at the workplace.

New substances and lower exposure levels.

Occupational exposure limits, i.e. the maximum quantity of harmful substances (usually expressed in milligrams per cubic metre of air) that workers can be exposed to, have been set for acrylonitrile and nickel compounds. The maximum limit is revised downwards for benzene.

Additionally, the Parliament has insisted that the Commission will present an action plan to achieve occupational exposure limit values for at least 25 substances or groups of substances before the end of 2022.

“This is a huge success, not only for the co-legislators, but first and foremost for the people on the ground whose health we seek to protect. It has been a longstanding request of the Parliament to include reprotoxic substances under the scope of the CMD directive and to ensure that workers,in particularly in health sector, are protected as much as possible when handling HMPs. We have finally managed to make it a reality. Thanks to the revised legislation, thousands of cases of adverse health effects and deaths will be prevented every year,” said Lucia Duris (Renew, SK), Chair of EMPL committee after concluding the negotiations.

The informal agreement will now have to be formally endorsed by Parliament and Council to come into force. The Employment Committee will first vote on the deal in the new year.

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