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20 April 2015

World day for safety and health at work: the ETUC calls for occupational cancer prevention measures

In the run-up to the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, commemorated each year on 28 April, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has criticised the European Commission’s failure to promote occupational cancer prevention measures. On 28 April, in three European cities, the ETUC will call on the European bodies to take action in this field.

The ETUC has manifestly run out of patience. The carcinogenic agents Directive, the main instrument for protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens in the workplace, has been under revision for ten years. It is obvious that the Commission’s ‘better regulation’ campaign on which so much emphasis has been placed in recent years, is hardly conducive to progress in this area.

The failure to act has human costs, as the ETUC points out in a communiqué, quoting the figure of 100,000 deaths a year from workplace-linked cancers. The ETUC thus estimates that 150,000 lives have been lost in the European Union since the announcement by the European Commission, in October 2013, of its decision to suspend all ongoing legislation initiatives in the occupational health and safety field.

‘Measures to protect workers from cancer and fertility difficulties, are being treated as “red tape” and a so-called “unnecessary burden” on industry’ said Bernadette Ségol, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation. ‘It is shameful.’

The European trade union confederation has called for the adoption by the Commission of compulsory limit values for exposure to 50 dangerous chemical substances. To date the directive places occupational exposure limits on only three carcinogens: benzene, vinyl ether monomers and hardwood. The ETUC calls also for extension of the directive to substances that are toxic for fertility and reproduction.

On 28 April next, Bernadette Segol will voice these demands at scheduled meetings in Strasbourg with Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen and European Parliament President Martin Schulz. Other ETUC leaders will speak out on the occasion of trade union actions to be held in Brussels and Riga.

For more information:

The ETUC communiqué

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