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Press release

Better protection for EU workers exposed to electromagnetic fields

Employment policy - 06-12-2012 - 16:20
Committee : Employment and Social Affairs
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New rules to improve the safty of workers most exposed to electromagnetic fields with protective measures and new maximum exposure limits were approved by a large majority in the social affairs and employment committee on Thursday. Exemptions for the medical imaging sector and for military applications will be allowed, to take account of their specific needs, say MEPs.

"This new text seeks to strengthen protection against exposure to electromagnetic fields at the workplace while also allowing some flexibility to take account of the specific needs of certain sectors", said the rapporteur, Elisabeth Morin Chartier (PPE, FR).

The draft law applies to all sectors but chiefly concerns workers exposed to high risks, for example in heavy industries such as steel or metal processing, or people working long hours close to television and radio broadcasting stations, radar installations and mobile phone pylons.

Tougher exposure limits

MEPs say limit values for exposure to electromagnetic radiation must in future be based on the new, stricter recommendations of the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP).

Employers must assess and reduce risks

The committee adopted amendments obliging employers to assess the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields and to take the measures needed to reduce them. If the maximum exposure limits are exceeded, the employer must devise and implement an action plan comprising technical and organisational measures.

More flexibility for medical imaging and military applications

However, the system of reference values could cause problems for some sectors such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and military operations, says the text. As maximum exposure limits are likely to restrict the use of these technologies, the  directive must allow exemptions under certain conditions, says the committee.

Long-term effects on health

The new directive proposed by the Commission addresses the short-term impact on health but not the long-term effects.

However, the employment and social affairs committee calls on the Commission and the member states to speed up research and the compilation of data on the long-term impact of exposure to electromagnetic fields and to table new legislation tackling the long-term health effects as soon as conclusive scientific proof is available.

In the chair: Pervenche Berès (S&D, FR).

Result of vote in committee: the draft resolution was adopted by 36 votes to 2, with 0 abstentions.

Procedure: codecision, first reading

Next steps: informal negotiations with the Council with a view to an agreement at first reading

REF.: 20121203IPR04322