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Stop work-related cancer:
EFBWW welcomes draft for new Directive on carcinogens at workplaces, but sees need for improvements

On May 13th, the European Commission presented a draft for a revised Directive for the protection of workers against the exposure to carcinogens and mutagens at the workplace. After a decade of standstill, this is a remarkable and important step towards better protection of workers. In Europe, every year more than 100,000 workers die because of work related cancer. One main factor in this regard is the high number of hazardous chemicals at the work places.

The proposed inclusion of 11 new limit values for carcinogens and two revised limit values, can only be considered as a first step. At a European conference in Amsterdam, organised under the Dutch Presidency from 23 to 25 May, Commissioner Marianne Thyssen announced the Commission’s plan to present another list of 12 further limit values before the end of 2016and expressed that in her view a sound legal framework is crucial for a successful protection of workers whilst it also provides a level playing field for the economic activities of companies.

The EFBWW welcomes the proposal, but nevertheless sees some need for improvement. Especially the proposed limit value for hard wood dust (3mg/m³) is insufficient and does not reflect existing technical possibilities. In this case, a limit value of 1mg/m³, applicable for all types of wood, would be recommended to protect workers from possible health effects. Also the proposed limit value for respirable crystalline silica (0,1 mg/m³) is considered insufficient. Some countries in Europe already have established lower values and the EFBWW is asking that this lower value of 0,05mg/m³ be used.

Ulrik Spannow, Chairman of the EFBWW Health and Safety Group, states that: “Strong European legislation is needed to protect the employees in the construction and wood industries from carcinogens at work. The EFBWW urges policy makers to agree upon a high level of protection in the Carcinogens Directive.

We call upon the Commission to propose much more limit values in order to safeguard the healthy work environment, our members are entitled to. For example, diesel exhaust and machine-made mineral fibres are substances for which we would also like to see limit values.”

In preparation for the upcoming discussion of the draft Directive in the European Parliament and the European Council, but also between institutions and social partners concerned, the EFBWW prepared a policy paper, presenting our positions regarding a number of important carcinogens. Firstly, the scope of the Directive needs to be enlarged to also include repro-toxic substances. Secondly, the number of substances covered by the Directive is far too low. There are so many hazardous substances, used and developed in a very high amount in processes and occupations where hundreds of thousands of workers are concerned, which urgently need to be regulated on European level. The EFBWW supports the list of 50 substances of high concern as presented by the ETUC. The EFBWW position paper (available below in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish) gives information on respirable crystalline silica, wood dust, asbestos, nano-particles, formaldehyde, mineral fibres and some other substances.

The EFBWW calls upon the European decision makers to go for the best possible legal framework to eliminate workplace cancer. We should aim for a full eradication of work-related cancer.

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