EU vote puts a stop to ‘sunshine’ directive

A vote in the European Parliament has halted plans to make employers responsible for the extent of their workers’ exposure to sunlight.

The MEPs voted against parts of the EU Optical Radiation Directive, which is principally designed to limit workers’ exposure to lasers, X-rays, welding torches or ultra-violet lamps.

However, in its original form the directive also included the onus on businesses to make daily risk assessments about the strength of the sun. Following the vote, the individual EU states are free to choose whether or not employers should be responsible.

Proponents of the legislation said it would help protect staff against skin cancer and other diseases, while critics said most firms would have neither the resources nor expertise to carry out risk assessments.

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said ensuring the safety of workers was in the best interest of employers but this could mean an extra burden on businesses in “a very grey area”.

“This whole area is a potential legal minefield, with employers being left open to the risk of court action over an employee’s skin condition, regardless of whether the condition developed from sun exposure at work or during personal time,” he said.

“Identifying and preparing for risks is one thing, but if the speculation came true around employers having to provide suntan lotion and hats, it would be an affront to common sense.”

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