New EU Communication “Safer and Healthier Work for All – Modernisation of the EU Occupational Safety and Health Legislation and Policy”

On 10 January 2017, the European Commission published a new Communication entitled “Safer and Healthier Work for All – Modernisation of the EU Occupational Safety and Health Legislation and Policy” in which three main priorities are presented:

1. Stepping up the fight against occupational cancer through legislative proposals accompanied by increased guidance and awareness-raising.

2. Helping businesses, in particular micro-enterprises and SMEs, comply with occupational safety and health rules. Indeed the EU Commission has underlined that compliance with the occupational safety and health Directives is more challenging for SMEs than large establishments, while at the same time the major and fatal injury rates are higher for SMEs. Specific support measures are therefore necessary to reach SMEs and help them increase their compliance in an efficient and effective way.

3. Cooperating with Member States and social partners to remove or update outdated rules and to refocus efforts on ensuring better and broader protection, compliance and enforcement on the ground.

As anticipated in the Communication, subsequent amendments of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive are foreseen concerning substances such as formaldehyde, beryllium, cadmium, chromium VI compounds and nickel compounds. Work has started with a view to presenting a new Commission proposal envisaged for early 2018.

The European Commission recalls that in the field of occupational safety and health, the EU sets minimum requirements which Member States can go beyond.  Indeed Member States are allowed to adopt more stringent protective measures than those foreseen in the EU Directives.  In doing so, it is essential that the focus is on increased protection and that no unnecessary administrative burden is added on companies.

Additionally, on 10 January the European Commission proposed new changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) and took a further step in a longer-term process of updating this Directive with regard to 7 more carcinogens. Two of these are related to the forest-based industries, namely:

  • Epichlorohydrin (1-Chloro-2,3-epoxypropane): used for the production of resin and in the paper production;
  • Complex PAH mixtures with benzo[a]pyrene: used in the wood impregnation and preservation with creosote. Benzo[a]pyrene as well as seven other PAHs subject to REACH restrictions are classified as carcinogens, category 1B in the CLP Regulation, and are therefore as well under the scope of the Directive. Benzo[a]pyrene is also listed in Annex XVII to REACH (Restrictions on the manufacture, placing on the market and use of certain dangerous substances, mixtures and articles).

Finally, the EU Commission identified a number of growing concerns which companies would need more support to address; stress, musculoskeletal disorders and the growing diversity of the workforce, notably with regard to ageing.

For further information, please vistit the EU Commission website:

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