The European Parliament once again strengthens workers' health

On Thursday 11 January 2024, the Employment and social affairs committee of the European Parliament adopted the trialogue agreement on the revision of two directives designed to strengthen the protection of workers against hazardous substances (the Chemical Agents Directive and the Carcinogens, Mutagens and Reprotoxics Directive).

The health of workers exposed to lead will be better protected thanks to the revision of limit values, the extension of medical surveillance and the development of guides of good practices. The agreement also introduces for the first time exposure limit values for diisocyanates, one of the main causes of work-related asthma.

Thanks to this deal, important provisions for the preservation of jobs have been added to the Commission's initial proposals:

  • Workers with high blood lead levels as a result of past exposure will not be excluded from their jobs as envisaged in the initial text, but will benefit from reinforced medical surveillance aimed at reducing their blood lead levels.      
  • The agreement provides for a transitional period to allow companies, particularly SMEs, to make the necessary adjustments.
  • As no level of lead is deemed safe for the unborn child, women of childbearing age will be given special attention, without introducing discriminatory measures that would have excluded them from the labour market.

Finally, MEPs succeeded in starting work on protecting workers from endocrine disruptors and on the development of a guide to better take into account the exposure to a combination of substances.

 For Catherine Amalric, shadow rapporteur Renew Europe: "This agreement is good news for the protection of workers. It includes an important social dimension so as not to penalise workers who have suffered high levels of exposure to lead in the past, and does not introduce discriminatory clauses for women of childbearing age. This agreement also marks an important starting point for protecting workplaces against the risks of endocrine disruptors".