Limit Values for Hazardous Substances in the Working Environment Change
The European Parliament has submitted amendment proposals that may have an impact on the companies of several different areas of activity, such as chemical, metal, textile industry, but also construction, machinery repairs and electronics manufacturing companies. Upon entry into force of the amendments, the limit values for the hazardous substances in the working environment will become stricter than they are now.
The European Parliament has made proposals to amend the EU Directive 2004/37/EC in order to protect and promote the health of the employees who have or may have contacts with hazardous substances in the working environment. Upon entry into force of the amendments, the limit values for the crystalline silicon dioxide breathed in. As a result, there would be a new limit value for the fine dust of quartz applicable in Estonia, i.e. there could be the maximum of 0.05 mg/m3 of fine dust of quartz in the air of the working environment (instead of the current 0.1 mg/m3). The fine dust of quartz is found, for example in the glass industry, construction, mining, ceramics. The new limit values for work-related contacts will also be set for three carcinogenic substances: nickel compounds, acrylic nitrite and benzene.
As a result of the amendments, the Directive will also be applicable for the reprotoxic substances. That would mean that in Estonia, there would be a need to amend the Regulation on Carcinogens and most of the provisions currently applicable for carcinogens and mutagens would also be applicable for reprotoxic substances and employers would be first and foremost required to:
- If necessary, update the working environment risk analysis if there is a risk of contact with reprotoxic substances in case of the working process;
- ensure that contacts of employees with reprotoxic substances would be minimal and the risk factor caused by the respective chemical would not exceed the established limit for the working environment;
- decrease health risk of employees who have contacts with reprotoxic substances by applying measures set out in the Regulation on Carcinogens;
- notify the Labour Inspectorate at least 30 days in advance before first commencing work with reprotoxic substances;
- ensure training for the employees who have contacts with reprotoxic substances;
- keep a list of employees in risk due to reprotoxic substances related to their work;
- organise health checks for employees who have contacts with reprotoxic substances during their work, before commencing contacts with reprotoxic substances.
Read the detailed overview of the amendments here.
The Chamber gave feedback in the planned amendments to the Ministry of Social Affairs, who in turn will formulate Estonian positions on the topic. Based on the feedback from the members of the Chamber, it was revealed that the amendments might prove to be problematic for certain companies. For example, there was a concern related to the production of shale oil in relation to increasing the limit for benzene as following the current limit is already problematic. For smaller companies, extending the requirements of the directive to reprotoxic substances and hazardous medicines might be problematic. That is first and foremost so if risk analysis reveals that an employee’s contacts with reprotoxic substances is minimal, i.e. the quantity of the substance in the working environment is low, frequency very rare and duration of the contact very short. In such case, it was not considered relevant to require that the Labour Inspectorate be informed or the person be sent to health check before commencing work etc.