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13 September 2017

Belgium steps up efforts to prevent risks to reproductive health in the workplace

A Royal Decree published in the Belgian Monitor on 11 September has extended the scope of worker protection regulations to cover not only carcinogens and mutagens, but also reprotoxic substances. This represents the final stage of regulatory reforms which the Belgian Government initially hoped would run in parallel to a similar process launched by the European Union back in 2002.

Lack of progress at EU level, however, ultimately forced Belgium to take unilateral action, following the example of other EU Member States such as France, Germany, Austria, Finland and the Czech Republic.

An amendment adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in July 2017 means that Europe itself will now be obliged to take action by the first quarter of 2019 at the latest, in the form of a Commission proposal concerning the protection of workers against reprotoxic substances.

Reprotoxic substances in Belgian workplaces will, in future, be subject to the stringent set of regulations intended to prevent occupational exposure to carcinogens, since carcinogens and reprotoxic substances have several things in common: their effects on human health are extremely serious and often irreversible, and in many cases exposure is ‘invisible’ because of the potentially long delay between exposure in the workplace and the onset of a health-related problem.

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