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ISSUE 74 page 5

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Unions hope the Dutch can re-ignite health and safety policy in the EU
 THE FAILURE OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO MEET a deadline for the regulation of endocrine-disrupters, the thinness of the current EU health and safety programme, the blocking of the already-signed agreement in the hairdressing industry, the constant interference by the REFIT exercise in ‘burdensome’ regulation: there are plenty of reasons why European trade unions have been dissatisfied by progress in the EU towards a healthier workplace. Now these criticisms have been brought together under the focus of work-related cancer to campaign for a more positive result. According to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) every year in the EU 100,000 workers and retirees die from cancers picked up during the course of their job. This is twenty times the figure for those receiving a fatal injury. Some deaths are due to past exposure to now-outlawed substances e.g. asbestos, some current production methods still generate hazardous waste such as silica and diesel fumes while new materials whose effect is unknown, like nano-particles, have been introduced. Even organisation of work, for instance continuous night shifts, has been shown to influence cancer risk.
OccDisease
The aim of the trade unions is to eliminate occupational cancer and they see the priority of the current Dutch EU presidency to update the EU Carcinogens and Mutagens directive as an opportunity to campaign on a number of fronts. Delayed since 2013 (see issue 71) the ETUC would like to see the revision give over fifty new chemicals binding limits on exposure to workers, to add to the three mentioned in the 1990 directive. Other union targets include incorporating solar radiation into the optical radiation directive (see issue 32), ensuring that all Member States have a comprehensive programme for removing asbestos and extending medical surveillance of those workers exposed to dangerous substances into their retirement. Union members and reps. are urged to campaign at both national and local levels both to raise awareness and to put pressure on the EU, employers and MEPs. The latter seems to be working as the European parliament has already passed a resolution on the EU health and safety programme which echoed many of the ETUC’s concerns.

An image from the ETUC campaign

 

 




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