Documents considered by the Committee on 28 November 2018 Contents

17Workplace safety: amendments to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; but scrutiny waiver granted for a General Approach to be sought in the ESPCO Council of 6 December 2018; drawn to the attention of the Health Committee and the Work & Pensions Committee

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

Articles 153 (1) and 153(2) TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV

Department

Health and Safety Executive

Document Number

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

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

17.1Cancer 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).

17.2On 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.113 These amendments would also set a skin notation for MOCA,114 a notation for skin sensitisation to formaldehyde, and a notation for both skin and respiratory sensitisation to Beryllium.

17.3Minister of State at the Department for Work & Pensions (Sarah Newton), submitted an Explanatory Memorandum on the Phase III proposal on 24 April 2018. She “broadly welcome[s]” 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”.

17.4The 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).

17.5In response to the Committee’s initial Report to the House of 15 May 2018, the Minister wrote to the Committee on 5 September. The Minister informed the Committee that after consultations with stakeholders, the Government was concerned that industry would have difficulty meeting the proposed OELVs for Formaldehyde, Beryllium and Cadmium. These concerns were said to have been raised with other Member States with a view to gauging support for changes to the proposed OELVs and/or the timescales for their introduction.

17.6The Minister now writes—21 November 2018 —requesting “a waiver should a vote in Council come swiftly…”. After discussions with officials at Departmental-level (the Health & Safety Executive) it has been clarified that the Minister is seeking a scrutiny waiver so that the Government can support a General Approach to be sought by the Austrian Presidency in the in the EPSCO Council of 6 December 2018.

17.7The Minister provides a brief—if at times unclear—update on the progress of negotiations on the proposal. Of the Minister’s previous concerns, she informs the Committee that the UK has been able to secure a three-year transitional period — in addition to the two-year implementation period under the Directive—before the proposed OELV on Formaldehyde would apply to the embalming/funeral sector.

17.8On the proposal for a revised OELV on Cadmium, the Minister informs the Committee that UK officials have been working with counterparts from other Member States on the introduction of a revised limit alongside the “biological monitoring of workers”. The Minister is silent on the Government’s previous concerns regarding the introduction of a more stringent—versus domestic legislation—OELV for Beryllium.

17.9Through discussions with officials at the HSE—as not explicitly stated in the Minister’s letter—we have ascertained that the Government intends to vote in favour the General Approach to be sought at the December EPSCO Council providing that it retains the derogation secured for the embalming/funeral sector.

17.10We thank the Minister’s officials for clarifying that a General Approach will be sought at the December EPSCO Council and for outlining the Government’s voting intentions. We are disappointed that this was not made clear in the Minister’s letter to the Committee of 21 November 2018.

17.11We are happy to agree to the requested scrutiny waiver so that the Government can vote in favour of the General Approach to be sought in the EPSCO Council of 6 December 2018. This waiver is provided on the basis that the Government has made clear to the Committee that it will only vote in favour of the General Approach if it includes the Formaldehyde derogation—said to have been secured during Working Groups— for the embalming/funeral sector.

17.12We request a report on the outcome of the 6 December EPSCO Council detailing how the Government voted by 17 January 2019. This report should explain whether the Government still holds reservations regarding the introduction of an EU OELV for Beryllium and, if it does, the steps it has taken to ensure these are considered during negotiations.

17.13We draw this Report to the attention of the attention of the Health Committee and the Work & Pensions Committee.

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 (9 May 2018).


113 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.

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




Published: 4 December 2018