On 5th April 2018, the EU Commission proposed new limits for five further carcinogenic chemicals. According to the EU Commission, this proposal shall contribute to improving the working conditions for more than a million workers in the EU and prevent more than 22,000 cases of work-related illness.
With the current amendment, the Commission proposes new limits for five carcinogens (Cadmium, Beryllium, Arsenic acid, Formaldehyde and MOCA). Based on these limits, a maximum concentration shall be set, which determines how many of these carcinogenic chemicals, may maximal exist in the air at the workplace. The substances covered by the regulation, are used among other for mechanical cladding, for zinc and copper smelting, in foundries, for glass production, in laboratories, in the electronics, chemicals, construction and health sector, for plastics production and in the recycling process.
Cancer - the cause for more than half of all work-related deaths
According to a Study by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), each year, more than 100,000 people in the EU are dying of work-related Cancer diseases. The annual figure in Austria stands at more than 1,800 deaths. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) estimates that more than half (52 %) of all work-related deaths can be attributed to Cancer diseases. In comparison, 24 % are the result of cardiovascular diseases, 2 % of injuries and 22 % of other illnesses.
The Commission pursues the approach of a continuous review of the Directive on Carcinogens und Mutagens from 2004. The current proposal of the EU Commission is already the third proposal on revising the Directive within a short period of time: In May 2016 (1st Tranche) and January 2017 (2nd Tranche), the Commission proposed new limits for a total of 20 carcinogens. The 1st Tranche was adopted in 2017; the 2nd Tranche is currently being negotiated within the framework of the legislative procedure.
On 27th March 2018, European Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs adopted the report of rapporteur Claude Rolin (EPP/Belgium) on the 2nd Tranche with 41 votes to 0 votes against and 7 abstentions. Within the framework of the 2nd Tranche, the limits for Diesel engine emissions are of particular significance. In a letter to the Employment Committee, The German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) assumes a number of 8 to 19 million workers in the EU, who are exposed to Diesel engine emissions at their workplace. This affects mainly people working in the mining, railway and freight transport sector or in warehouses. Against this background, Germany introduced a limit of 0.05mg/m3 in 2017. The Employment Committee also adopted this value with the current vote. One can only hope that the Plenum of the European Parliament and subsequently the Council will follow this approach.
Demands of AK: For faster and more comprehensive reforms
Chamber of Labour has time and again pointed out the massive threat to the health of workers due to carcinogenic substances. Against this background, Chamber of Labour has so far welcomed steps initiated by the Commission to improve the situation. However, the reforms should be faster and more comprehensive: Chamber of Labour demands – in full harmony with the European Trade Union Confederation – the introduction of at least 50 binding limits for carcinogens at the workplace by 2020. A list of substances, which should be given priority is also in the Publication of ETUC “Carcinogens that should be subject to binding limits on workers' exposure” from 2016.
In addition, Chamber of Labour supports the introduction of a modern, risk-based limit regime, which already exists in Germany or the Netherlands. Such a system shall ensure that the risk to develop Cancer is equally low for all working materials. Apart from that, Chamber of Labour supports the introduction of an electronic notification requirement to the work inspectorate and the accident insurance agencies.