European Commission welcomes measures to protect workers

A decision by the EU’s Council of Ministers to adopt measures aimed at protecting workers against exposure to hazardous chemicals has been welcomed by the European Commission.

The new Directive elicits amendments to five existing EU health and safety Directives on safeguarding workers from risks linked to exposure to chemicals in the workplace.

László Andor, commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, said the modifications aligned EU legislation with the latest rules on classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals.

“These modifications further strengthen the protection of workers against risks related to the use of dangerous chemicals at work,” stated Mr Andor.

“The alignment of worker protection requirements with the new labelling system will allow both employers and workers to understand the risks involved in the use of dangerous chemicals so that health and safety is not jeopardized in the workplace.”

The new rules ensure that the requirements of the five Directives reflect the requirements of recently introduced rules governing the supply of chemicals.

What will the changes mean for employers?

Among the changes, manufacturers and suppliers of chemical substances and mixtures will be compelled to provide harmonised labelling details to alert users to the presence of hazardous chemicals and the associated risks.

When conducting workplace risk assessments, employers must use this information to lock appropriate risk management measures in place to protect workers. This could include process enclosure, ventilation systems and deploying personal protective equipment.

In addition, the amendments are designed to help cement the move towards a globalised approach to the terminology used in chemical regulation.

When do I need to implement the changes?

Member States have been given until 1st June 2015 to embed the new Directive in their national legislation.

The Commission has published guidance materials on its website to help employers manage and implement the new system for chemical packaging and labelling.

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