Answer given by Mr Schmit on behalf of the European Commission
1. The Commission does not have detailed information on the financial and societal impact on unloading of import containers in Europe. However, the EU information agency for occupational safety and health (EU-OSHA) published a report in 2018 on handling fumigated containers in ports which reviews the legislation, identifies the risks and describes practical examples of preventive measures and strategies.
2. Legislative measures for worker protection, including occupational exposure limit values (OELs) to protect workers’ health are set under EU directives that lay down minimum requirements in accordance with Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. The directives apply to all hazardous chemicals, including toluene, benzene and phosphine, and effectively remove unnecessary barriers by levelling the playing field. Therefore, the Commission does not consider that current practices create unnecessary barriers to the free movement of goods in Europe and for small and medium-sized enterprises operating across borders.
For benzene, the OEL in Directive 2004/37/EC has been revised downwards to 0.2 ppm which shall be transposed by 5 April 2024. Transitional measures are foreseen to allow employers to adapt working procedures.
3. The enforcement of the national legislation transposing these EU directives is mainly a competence of Member States. The EU Senior Labour Inspectors Committee aims to promote effective and equivalent enforcement of such legislation, including as regards risks from chemicals such as the risks to workers’ health when opening containers.
-  https://osha.europa.eu/en/publications/handling-fumigated-containers-ports-health-risks-and-prevention-practices
-  https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=celex%3A31989L0391
-  https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex%3A31998L0024
-  https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02004L0037-20140325
-  https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2022/431
-  Parts per million by volume in air (ml/m3).
-  https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=148&intPageId=685&langId=en