23rd May 2019

Revised 'sunlight directive' adopted

The European Parliament has passed a revised version of the controversial directive to protect employees from optical radiation - including sunlight.

The parliament's employment and social committee on Tuesday (12 July) voted overwhelmingly in favour of the legislation, which makes up the fourth and final part of the health and safety measures' package to be applied by European businesses.

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  • It will be up to member states to decide what measures employers should take to protect their workers from sunlight (Photo: European Commission)

This particular piece of legislation was originally criticised because of its suggestion that protection from natural sources of radiation - sunlight - should be harmonised at EU level.

The European Commission was supposed to work out a list of rules for employers to follow in order to protect their employees from excessive sunlight, which could lead to skin cancer.

Industry expected that they might include scientific risk assessments and detailed action plans, which would be burdensome, mainly for small and medium sized firms.

Speaking at the committee one day before the vote, the British minister for pension and social issues, David Blunkett, said he believed MEPs would support a "common sense" approach concerning the directive, stressing "We need to apply common sense across all the areas of European legislation".

The Hungarian centre-right parliamentary rapporteur, Csaba Ory, eventually tabled an amendment to the draft, stating that the definition of any obligation of employers in terms of protection from sunlight should be left up to individual member states to decide, rather than being prescribed and controlled by the EU.

Socialist and Green MEPs abstained from the vote on the revised bill, but centre-right and liberal deputies supported it.

Small and medium sized businesses have also welcomed the move.

"There is clearly a risk from over-exposure to sunlight but this risk varies dramatically across Europe. Given the risk from exposure to sunlight affects all members of the public when they are outdoors, it would be better addressed by the provision of adequate information both to employees and the general public at national level", commented Hans-Werner Müller, the secretary general of UEAPME.

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