In a move that aims to provide better protection for workers, the European Commission has proposed a number of changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive that will limit exposure to 13 cancer-causing chemicals at work.
According to the World Health Organisation, cancer is the second largest cause of death in most developed countries – and in the European Union cancer is the first cause of work-related deaths. Around 53% of annual work-related deaths are due to cancer, compared to 28% for circulatory diseases and 6% for respiratory diseases.
One specific example of a new chemical agent to be added is 'respirable crystalline silica', which the Commission proposes to include in the Directive as a 'process generated' substance.
The Commission highlights that while some companies have good control of airborne concentrations of this chemical, it is still a leading cause of both the lung disease 'silicosis' and occupational lung cancer. The Commission proposal will protect workers across the EU, including those in the construction sector, which represents almost 70% of all workers exposed to 'respirable crystalline silica'.
The proposals have been welcomed by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) as “a step in the right direction”.
“Setting occupational exposure limits across Europe can help to prevent cancers and premature deaths and achieve consistent standards,” commented Kate Field, head of information and intelligence at IOSH. “However the best way of protecting people is to prevent exposure in the first place. Relying on measures such as respiratory protective equipment alone is not acceptable; we support a greater shift towards designing out the risk to avoid exposure.”
For legal advice on these issues or any other legal problems you may have, please complete our online enquiry form or call us on 0141 413 9886.