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The European Commission has welcomed the definitive adoption today by the EU's Council of Ministers of measures to better protect workers from risks linked to exposure to chemicals at the workplace.
The new Directive amends five existing EU health and safety Directives on protection of workers from exposure to harmful chemicals to align them with the latest rules on classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals (Regulation (EC) 1272/2008). Member States now have until 1 June 2015 to implement the new Directive in their national legislation.
Every day millions of EU workers are potentially exposed to hazardous chemicals in a wide range of employment sectors including manufacturing and service industries, agriculture, health care and education.
The new rules will ensure that the requirements of the five Directives, which protect workers when using chemicals, are brought in line with the recently introduced new rules for the supply of chemicals. Manufacturers and suppliers of chemical substances and mixtures will have to provide harmonised labelling information on hazard classification, alerting the user to the presence of hazardous chemicals, the need to avoid exposure and the associated risks. Employers use this information when carrying out workplace risk assessments. This allows employers to put in place appropriate risk management measures to protect workers' health and safety, such as process enclosure, ventilation systems and the use of personal protective equipment.
The rules will also make a significant positive contribution to a more global approach to the terminology used in the chemical Regulation. This will contribute to improving a common understanding on chemical risk management issues not only in the EU but also with the EU's key trading partners across the world.
To assist employers and workers in managing the practical implications of the new system for chemical packaging and labelling, the Commission has published some guidance materials, available, free of charge.