Health and Safety: European Commission welcomes Parliament adoption of new rules to protect EU workers from harmful electromagnetic fields

EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor today welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament of the Commission’s proposal for a Directive to update and improve EU rules to protect workers from electromagnetic fields in their workplace. The rules would protect workers such as doctors and nurses giving patients magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI), people working with radar, welders and workers repairing power lines. Commissioner László Andor commented: “Today’s vote by the European Parliament strikes the right balance between the need to better protect workers exposed to electromagnetic fields on the one hand, and the need to reduce the regulatory burden for SMEs on the other. The new legislation will benefit both workers and businesses. I would like to thank the European Parliament and in particular the Rapporteur, MEP Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, for her excellent cooperation in drawing up this report and for her hard work to find compromises.” The EU’s Council of Ministers, which has already agreed to the text, is set to formally adopt the proposal on 20 June. Member States will have to implement the Directive in their national law by 1 July 2016. Background The proposed Directive will clarify the definitions of adverse effects on health, introduce an updated exposure limits system (frequencies that are recognised as having harmful effects on the human cardiovascular system or the central nervous system), as well as a number of provisions to make it easier for employers to carry out the risk assessments required by law. As employers are obliged to carry out risk evaluations, the proposal will introduce detailed provisions to ensure a proportionate approach as well as to ensure adequate preventive measures to reduce the exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields. The proposal will require employers to give exposed workers and their representatives the necessary information and training, particularly relating to the outcome of the risk assessment, the measures taken by the employer, safe working practices, the detection of adverse effects and the circumstances in which workers are entitled to health checks. In the case of a worker maintaining high tension lines, for example, the proposal will require the employer to evaluate the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields and take measures to reduce them. Such measures could include increasing the distance, reducing the intensity and limiting exposure time. For the medical magnetic resonance imaging sector (e.g. MRI scans), the proposal will require appropriate good practices to be developed and disseminated to limit the exposure of workers. For the armed forces, harmonised North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) norms for those working with radar will have to be applied in the Member States concerned. The proposal also foresees specific provisions for workers who wear an Active Implantable Medical Device (AIMD) – like a pacemaker – and pregnant women, who are considered to be especially at risk and need special protection. The proposal only covers workers during their professional activities. All other categories of people, such as consumers, phone users and passengers, are covered by the existing Council Recommendation 1999/519/EC for the general public and specific legislation in each Member State.

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