EU optical radiation directive approved

The European Parliament has approved an EU directive designed to protect workers from exposure to optical radiation. 

The new rules lay down minimum standards for prevention and early diagnosis of damage to the eyes and skin from sources such as lasers and infrared lamps. 

They set limits for the level and duration of exposure, and require employers to carry out risk assessments, including on the design and layout of workplaces and on appropriate protective equipment.

The European Parliament’s key demand that the directive should cover only artificial sources of radiation was accepted by the Council of Ministers, so protection from natural sources, such as sunlight, is now not included in the final text.

The directive also does not cover x-rays or gamma rays, or electromagnetic fields, such as microwaves and radio frequencies.

EU member states will have four years to put the new rules into domestic law.

This is the fourth and last directive in a series of health and safety rules covering protection from so-called ‘physical agents’. The previous directives covered vibrations, noise and electromagnetic fields.

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