Documents considered by the Committee on 27 February 2019 Contents

14Workplace safety: amendments to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; further information requested

Document details

Proposal to amend Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work (Phase 3)

Legal base

Article 153(2) TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV


Health and Safety Executive

Document Number

(39612), 7733/18 + ADDs 1 —3, COM(18) 171

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

14.1Cancer is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the EU. In the UK, around 3,500 people die each year from occupational cancer caused by exposure to carcinogenic substances. To reduce these numbers, the EU has legislated to prevent dangerous levels of workplace exposure to carcinogenic substances in the form of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD). Since May 2016, the Commission has published three separate sets of amendments to the CMD to further restrict the use of certain carcinogenic substances in the light new scientific advice (respectively, labelled Phases I to III).

14.2On 5 April 2018, the Commission published a proposal for a third phase of amendments to the CMD (that under consideration). The phase 3 amendments set-out occupational exposure limit values (OELVs) for five substances: cadmium, beryllium, arsenic acid, formaldehyde and MOCA.87 These amendments would also set a skin notation for MOCA,88 a notation for skin sensitisation to formaldehyde, and a notation for both skin and respiratory sensitisation to beryllium.

14.3Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (Sarah Newton MP), submitted an Explanatory Memorandum on the Phase III proposal on 24 April 2018. She “broadly [welcomed]” the new exposure limits, noting that current UK legislation already requires employers to consider “all routes of exposure to carcinogens to be considered, including skin” and ensure any exposure to carcinogenic substances is “controlled to as low a level as is reasonably practicable”.

14.4The proposed EU-wide exposure limits are lower than those provided for domestically (except for MOCA where the UK’s domestic workplace exposure limit is lower than that suggested by the Commission). A full assessment of the legal and political importance of the proposal—including the initial questions we asked of the Government—can be found in our first Report to the House of 9 May 2018.

14.5The proposal has been considered on two separate occasions by the Committee—this report being the third—and is expected to go to Council for adoption at the beginning of March 2019. As such, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work (Sarah Newton MP), wrote to the Committee on 12 February requesting that the proposal be cleared from scrutiny in order to allow the Government to vote in favour of its adoption. The Minister also wrote to the Committee on 21 January 2019 summarising the General Approach reached at the December (2018) EPSCO Council. Taken in date order, the Minister’s correspondence provides helpful background information on the final form of the proposal (and how this was reached).

Minister’s letter of 21 January 2019

14.6In her letter of 21 January, the Minister updated the Committee on the outcome of the December EPSCO Council and the success—or otherwise—of the Government’s attempts to secure its negotiating objectives.

14.7As highlighted in our last report to the House, the Government wished to support the General Approach sought at the December Council providing that it included an extended transitionary period before the proposed exposure limit on Formaldehyde would apply. This transitionary period was included in the agreed General Approach and has remained in the text of the amendment during trilogue negotiations.

14.8The Government was also keen—along with France, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands and Slovakia—to make provision for a revised exposure limit for Cadmium combined with processes for the biological monitoring of workers. The Government published a joint statement—along with these Member States—recording its regret that this suggestion was not included in the final General Approach. The Minister kindly appended this statement to her letter of 21 January.

14.9In response to the Committee’s previous questions concerning the introduction of an exposure limit for Beryllium, the Minister explains her reservations about such action. This centres around the technical feasibility of the proposed limit and the current lack of appropriate exposure measurement technologies. These concerns are said to have been raised by other Member States but not acted upon. As a consequence, the General Approach included a 5-year transitionary period—in addition to a 2-year implementation period—to give industry time to make appropriate adjustments.

14.10The Minister also informs the Committee of developments in the European Parliament’s proposals to bring cytotoxic and other hazardous drugs within the scope of the CMD. The Minister states that the Government’s position remains that it does not believe that the inclusion of such drugs is necessary.

Minister’s letter of 12 February 2019

14.11The Minister now seeks clearance of the proposal from scrutiny—by way of correspondence dated 12 February—in order for the Government to support its adoption at Council. It is expected that this will be before the end of March. The final text of the Phase 3 amendment is similar in substance to the General Approach reached at the December EPSCO Council.

14.12The Minister provides a brief summary of the final form of the amendment in relation to the UK’s negotiating priorities. On Formaldehyde, an interim exposure limit of 0.05ppm would apply from the date of transposition of the amendment with a lower limit of 0.03ppm applicable from 2024. With regard to Cadmium, an interim limit of 0.004 mg/m3 would apply from the date of transposition with a lower limit of 0.001 mg/m3 applicable from 2028. At the behest of the Government and France, voluntary biomonitoring will be would be possible whilst the Commission undertakes further studies. For Beryllium, an interim limit of 0.0006 mg/m3 would apply from the date of transposition with a lower limit of 0.0002 mg/m3 applicable from 2026.

14.13The Minister informs the Committee that during trilogue negotiations the Commission agreed to undertake a study to assess the need to amend the CMD to include cytotoxic and other hazardous drugs or to propose a more appropriate legal instrument and to present, if deemed necessary, a legislative proposal. The Minister explains that whilst she does not believe that such action is warranted, the Government is not opposed to the Commission undertaking research to assess if additional legal controls are necessary and, if deemed so, how they could be best achieved.

14.14We thank the Minister for her correspondence of 21 January and 12 February 2019. As the Minister has made plain the Government’s plans to support the adoption of the proposal and has fully explained how the final text relates to its negotiating priorities, we are content to clear it from scrutiny.

14.15We request an update on the outcome of the Council at which the proposal is put for adoption as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Full details of the documents

Proposal to amend Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work (Phase 3): (39612), 7733/18 + ADDs 1–3, COM(18) 171.

Previous Committee Reports

Twenty-seventh report HC 301–xxvi (2017–19) chapter 6 (15 May 2018); and Forty-sixth report HC 301–xlv (2017–19) chapter 17 (28 November 2018)

87 MOCA is an anacronym for 4,4’-Methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline). MOCA is listed as a ‘substance of very high concern’ by the European Chemicals Agency.

88 A notation for ‘skin sensitisation’ is made where exposure to a substance can cause an adverse skin reaction.

Published: 5 March 2019