RSS
Alphabetical index
This page is available in 4 languages

We are migrating the content of this website during the first semester of 2014 into the new EUR-Lex web-portal. We apologise if some content is out of date before the migration. We will publish all updates and corrections in the new version of the portal.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.


Exposure to chemical agents

1) OBJECTIVE

To lay down minimum requirements for the protection of workers from risks to their safety and health arising, or likely to arise, from the effects of chemical agents that are present at the workplace or as a result of any work activity involving chemical agents.

2) ACT

Council Directive 98/24/EC of 7 April 1998 on the protection of the health and safety of workers from the risks related to chemical agents at work (fourteenth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) [Official Journal L 131 of 05.05.1998].

Directive 80/1107/EEC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to chemical, physical and biological agents at work, along with Directives 88/642/EEC and 82/605/EEC (exposure to metallic lead and its ionic compounds) which are both individual Directives within the meaning of Article 8 of Directive 80/1107, have been included in Directive 98/24/EC.
These Directives have been repealed in compliance with Article 13 of Directive 98/24/EC since 05.05.2001.

Directive 98/24 has also repealed Directive 88/364/EEC on the protection of workers by the banning of certain specified agents and/or certain work activities.

3) SUMMARY

Definition of terms "chemical agent", "hazardous chemical agent", "activity involving chemical agents", "occupational exposure limit value", "biological limit value", "health surveillance", "hazard" and "risk".

On the basis of an independent scientific assessment of the relationship between the health effects of hazardous chemical agents and the level of occupational exposure, after consulting the Advisory Committee on Safety, Hygiene and Health Protection at Work, the Commission must propose European objectives in the form of indicative occupational exposure limit values for the protection of workers from chemical risks, to be set at Community level.

These limit values must be established or revised, taking into account the availability of measurement techniques.

Member States must keep workers' and employers' organisations informed of these limit values.

For any chemical agent for which an indicative occupational exposure limit value is established at Community level, Member States must establish a national occupational exposure limit value, taking into account the Community limit value. On the basis of reports provided by the Member States, the Commission must assess the way in which Member States have taken account of Community indicative limit values when establishing the corresponding national occupational exposure limit values.

On the same basis, binding occupational exposure limit values may be drawn up at Community level, account being taken of feasibility factors.

For any chemical agent for which a binding occupational exposure limit value is established at Community level, Member States must establish a corresponding national binding occupational exposure limit value that does not exceed the Community limit value.

On the same basis, binding biological limit values may be drawn up at Community level with due regard to the availability of measurement techniques and taking account of feasibility factors.

For any chemical agent for which a binding biological limit value is established at Community level, Member States must establish a corresponding national binding biological limit value that does not exceed the Community limit value.

Where a Member State introduces or revises a national (biological or occupational exposure) limit value for a chemical agent, it must inform the Commission and other Member States.

The employer must determine whether any hazardous chemical agents are present at the workplace and assess any risk to the safety and health arising from their presence, taking into consideration:

  • their hazardous properties;
  • information on safety and health provided by the supplier;
  • the level, type and duration of exposure;
  • the circumstances of work involving such agents, including their amount;
  • any national occupational exposure or biological limit values;
  • the effect of preventive measures taken or to be taken;
  • the conclusions to be drawn from any health surveillance already undertaken.

The employer must be in possession of an assessment of the risk in accordance with Article 9 of Directive 89/391/EEC. This assessment shall be kept up-to-date, particularly if there have been significant changes or if the results of health surveillance show it to be necessary.

In the case of activities involving exposure to several hazardous chemical agents, the risks must be assessed on the basis of the risk presented by all such chemical agents in combination.

In the case of a new activity involving hazardous chemical agents, work must commence only after the risk of that activity has been assessed and appropriate preventive measures had been taken.

The employer must take the necessary preventive measures set out in Article 6 of Directive 89/391/EEC and include the measures set out below.

Risks must be eliminated or reduced to a minimum by:

  • the design and organisation of systems of work;
  • the provision of suitable equipment for any work with chemical agents;
  • reducing to a minimum the number of workers exposed or likely to be exposed;
  • reducing to a minimum the duration and intensity of exposure;
  • appropriate hygiene measures;
  • reducing the quantity of chemical agents present at the workplace to the minimum required for the type of work concerned;
  • suitable working procedures.

The specific protection, prevention and monitoring measures listed below must be applied if the assessment carried out by the employer reveals a risk to the safety and health of workers.

The employer must ensure that the risk is eliminated or reduced to a minimum, preferably by substitution (replacing a hazardous chemical agent with a chemical agent or process which is not hazardous or less hazardous).

Where the nature of the activity does not permit risk to be eliminated by substitution, the following protection and prevention measures must be taken, listed in order of priority:

  • design of appropriate work processes and engineering controls and use of adequate equipment and materials so as to avoid or minimise the release of hazardous chemical agents;
  • application of collective protection measures at the source of the risk;
  • application of personal protection measures.

These measures must be accompanied by health surveillance in accordance with Article 10 if this is appropriate to the nature of the risk.

The employer must regularly measure chemical agents which may present a risk to workers' health, in relation to the occupational exposure limit values.

Where an occupational exposure limit value effectively established on the territory of a Member State has been exceeded, the employer must immediately take steps to remedy the situation.

The employer must take appropriate technical and/or organisational measures in the order of priority indicated to:

  • prevent the presence at the workplace of hazardous concentrations of inflammable substances or hazardous quantities of chemically unstable substances or, where the nature of the work does not allow that,
  • avoid the presence of ignition sources or the existence of conditions with an adverse effect on chemically unstable substances, and
  • mitigate the detrimental effects in the event of fire or explosion, or harmful physical effects arising from unstable substances.

Work equipment and protective systems must comply with the relevant Community provisions, in particular with Directive 94/9/EC.

The employer must establish procedures (action plans) which can be implemented in the event of an accident, incident or emergency related to the presence of hazardous chemical agents at the workplace. These arrangements must include any relevant safety drills performed at regular intervals and the provision of appropriate first aid facilities.

When one of these events occurs, the employer must take appropriate remedial action as soon as possible and inform the workers concerned. Only workers who are needed to restore the normal situation are permitted to remain in the affected area; they must be provided with protective clothing, personal protective equipment, and specialised safety equipment and plant.

The employer must ensure that information on emergency arrangements is available. This information must include:

  • advance notice of relevant work hazards and procedures so that the emergency services can prepare their own response;
  • any information on specific hazards arising, or likely to arise, at the time of an accident or emergency.

The employer must ensure that workers and/or their representatives are provided with:

  • the results of the risk assessment;
  • full information on the hazardous chemical agents present at the workplace;
  • training and information on the appropriate precautions and on the personal and collective protection measures that are to be taken;
  • access to any safety data sheet provided by the supplier.

The information must be provided in an appropriate manner and updated to take account of changing circumstances.

The employer must ensure that the contents of containers and pipes and any hazard that they represent are clearly identifiable.

Member States may take measures necessary to ensure that employers may obtain on request all necessary information on hazardous chemical agents, preferably from producers or suppliers.

Annex III to the Directive specifies limits above which certain chemical agents and activities involving chemical agents are prohibited.

Member States may permit derogations from these prohibitions in the following circumstances:

  • for the sole purpose of scientific research and testing;
  • for activities intended to eliminate chemical agents that are present in the form of by-products or waste products;
  • for the production and use of the chemical agents as intermediates.

In this case, the production and use of these chemical agents must take place as early as possible and in a single closed system.

Member States may provide for systems of individual authorisations.

When requesting a derogation, the employer must provide the competent authority with the following information:

  • the reason for requesting the derogation;
  • the quantity of the chemical agent to be used annually;
  • the activities involved;
  • the number of workers liable to be involved;
  • the precautions envisaged to protect the safety and health of the workers concerned;
  • the technical and organisational measures taken to prevent the exposure of workers.

Member States must introduce arrangements for carrying out appropriate health surveillance of workers for whom the results of the assessment made by the employer reveal a risk to health.

The results of this surveillance must result in the taking of preventive measures when:

  • the exposure of the worker to a hazardous chemical agent is such that an identifiable disease or adverse health effect may be related to the exposure, and;
  • there is a likelihood that the disease or effect may occur under the particular conditions of the worker's work, and;
  • the technique of investigation is of low risk to workers.

Health surveillance is compulsory for work with a chemical agent for which a binding biological limit value has been set.

Individual health and exposure records must be made and kept up-to-date for each worker who undergoes health surveillance. The individual worker must have access to his personal records.

Where, as a result of health surveillance, a worker is found to have a disease or adverse health effect associated with exposure at work to a hazardous chemical agent or a binding biological limit value is found to have been exceeded, the worker must be informed by the doctor, who will provide him with information and advice regarding any health surveillance which he should undergo following the end of the exposure.

The employer must review the risk assessment that he made and the measures provided to eliminate or reduce these risks. To do this, he must take into account the advice of the occupational health-care professional in implementing any measures considered necessary, including the possibility of assigning the worker to alternative work where there is no risk of further exposure. Finally, he must arrange continued health surveillance and provide for a review of the health status of any other worker who has been similarly exposed.

Consultation and participation of workers and/or their representatives must take place in accordance with Article 11 of Directive 89/391/EEC.

Act

Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 98/24/EC

25.5.1998

5.5.2001

OJ L 131 of 5.5.1998

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2007/30/EC

28.6.2007

31.12.2012

OJ L 165 of 27.6.2007

4) IMPLEMENTING MEASURES

5) FOLLOW-UP WORK

Communication from the Commission, of 21 December 2004 concerning the Guidelines of a non-binding nature for implementing certain provisions of Directive 98/24/EC [COM(2004) 819 final - not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 20.03.2008
Legal notice | About this site | Search | Contact | Top