Friday, 8 July 2005
The Irish Engineering Enterprises Federation today warned that current EU proposals on optical radiation, which will be voted on by the European Parliament on Monday 11 July, will prove excessively costly and bureaucratic for business. The proposed EU directive, supported by national governments, could require employers to carry out ‘risk assessments’ on the exposure of their workers to sunlight, for example.
The directive will mean that all employers, whether private or public, will have to carry out these checks on all sources of optical radiation to which their staff are exposed. This could also include scanners, lasers used in CD/DVD drives and measuring devices.
‘This plan will not improve workers’ health and safety, but will just add to the bureaucracy faced by businesses operating in the EU,’ said Paul Kelly, Director of the Irish Engineering Enterprises Federation (IEEF). ‘How such a poor piece of regulation can have made it so far through the legislative process, is a mystery,’ he added.
‘No proper impact assessment was carried out on the proposal and it written in language which is so complex that it is completely beyond the understanding of most employers unless they were to be given detailed guidance. To make matters worse, the Commission is unwilling to commit itself to providing such guidance before the legislation becomes applicable,’ said Mr Kelly. ‘Unfortunately it looks as if the proposal will be rubberstamped by the European Parliament next week. It really is time that common sense prevailed. This is the type of legislation which gives Brussels a bad name,’ he added.
IEEF does not believe that a case has been made for this directive, nor do we see how it could be made - for the past twelve years since the Commission drew up the first proposals, no one has been able to provide any evidence of the need for regulation in this area. Those persons, such as surgeons or machine operators, who use optical tools, are trained to handle them, and the industry has developed a set of internationally recognised standards to underpin existing health and safety regulation in this area.
‘In the engineering sector we already have European legislation on electrical equipment and machinery safety, which deals with optical radiation. The plan could open up a Pandora’s box of litigation, with employers wondering how to deal with compensation claims from employees arising from the consequences of exposure to optical radiation, which everyone who takes a walk on a sunny day or goes to a nightclub also faces. The communication campaigns which a number of governments have launched to warn citizens of the risks of excessive exposure to sunlight are more pragmatic and likely to be much more effective.’
In the opinion of the IEEF, unless the directive is fundamentally amended by MEPs to include a clear reference to existing standards and natural sources of radiation are removed from its scope, it will be impossible for businesses, especially small ones to comply with its provisions. Moreover, given the complexity of the text - half of it is in the form of complex mathematical formulae - it is essential that the institutions should provide clear guidance to employers before it becomes applicable. The European Parliament is expected to vote in second reading on the Rapporteur’s report in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on 11 July 2005.