Member states' Permanent Representatives endorsed rules on exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields

Member states' Permanent Representatives endorsed the compromise reached between the Council and the European Parliament negotiators, with the help of the Commission, on a new directive on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from electromagnetic fields.

The new directive on rules on exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields is to replace a 2004 directive which has never entered into force because of problems with its implementation. Member states' Permanent Representatives have recently endorsed the compromise agreed text that reviews exposure limitations on the basis of new scientific evidence and provides for derogations, in particular for medical applications using magnetic resonance imaging. In order to enter into force, the text still needs to be formally approved by the Parliament, and by the Council. The European Commission proposed to improve rules to protect workers from electromagnetic fields in June 2011.

Among other things, long-term effects of exposure are not covered by the directive as there is currently no conclusive evidence of a causal relationship. However, the European Commission will monitor scientific developments and, if need be, consider appropriate means to address such effects. In addition, in the interest of transparency, risk assessments to be carried out by the employer can be made public on request. National administrations and companies may, however, refuse access to a risk assessment in cases where disclosure would undermine the commercial interests of the employer, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.

The new draft Directive also include that rules on health surveillance and on the records to be established regarding risks, prevention and protection measures have been strengthened. Member states will have to enact the directive in their national law three years after the directive's entry into force. However, if Parliament approves the text by the end of June 2013, the deadline will be 1 July 2016.