Directive (EU) 2019/983 amending Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work

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Publication Date 20/06/2019
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Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 aiming to limit workers' exposure to five cancer-causing chemicals.

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This Directive aims to improve workers’ health protection by reducing occupational exposure to five carcinogenic chemical agents, to provide more clarity for workers, employers and enforcers, and to contribute to a level playing field for economic operators.

The social partners, workers' and employers' organisations, confirmed that the five following carcinogens selected for the third amendment of the Directive were of high relevance for the protection of workers and encouraged the European Commission to continue the preparatory work for the establishment of occupational exposure limit values ('OELs') for:

  • Cadmium and its inorganic compounds under the scope of the Directive;
  • Beryllium and inorganic beryllium compounds under the scope of the Directive;
  • Arsenic acid and its salts, as well as inorganic arsenic compounds under the scope of the Directive;
  • Formaldehyde;
  • 4,4'-Methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline) ('MOCA') 13.


The Commission had already previously taken steps to address these issues by adopting two legislative proposals updating Directive 2004/37/EC, in May 2016 and in January 2017 respectively, addressing together 20 carcinogens. The latest amendment is the result of a two-stage consultation of the European Social Partners in 2017, firstly on the possible direction of European Union action concerning further revisions of the Directive, and secondly on its possible content.

The draft law was proposed by the European Commission on 5 April 2018. The European Parliament adopted its negotiating position in November and the Council of the European Union adopted its general approach on 6 December. An informal agreement between the institutions on a compromise text was reached on 29 January 2019.

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Commentary and Analysis
EPRS: Briefing, October 2018: Limits on exposure to carcinogens and mutagens at work: Third proposal

EUR-Lex: COM(2018)171: Proposal to amend Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work
European Commission: SWD(2018)88: Impact assessment
European Commission: SWD(2018)87: Executive summary of the impact assessment
European Parliament: Legislative Observatory: Procedure File for proposal on protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work: limit values
European Commission: Press Release, 05/04/2018: Commission takes further action to better protect workers against cancer-causing chemicals
European Commission: Fact Sheet, 05/04/2018: Commission follows up on workers' protection from cancer-causing chemicals
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 29/01/2019: Better protection of workers health: Romanian Presidency reaches provisional agreement with the European Parliament on carcinogens and mutagens at work
European Commission: Statement, 29/01/2019: Protecting workers against cancer-causing chemicals: Commissioner Thyssen welcomes third agreement between EU institutions

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