No EU regulation on sunlight

The ‘sunlight directive’, on the EU’s agenda for 13 years, has finally been adopted. However, regulation to protect workers from over-exposure to natural light will be left to member states.

On 14 February 2006, Parliament endorsed the results of the earlier Parliament-Council conciliation committee on the directive on exposure of workers to optical radiation, agreeing that regulation to protect workers from over-exposure to sunshine should be left to member states.

The co-called sunlight directive, on the table since 1992, aims to prevent damage to skin and eyes through, for example, modified working methods, limited duration and exposure to optical radiation, the use of appropriate personal protective equipment and, if necessary, modification of the design and layout of workplaces and work-stations. It also includes provisions on workers’ rights to information, training, consultation and health checks. 

The main argument between the Council and Parliament was on the distinction drawn by the Council between protection from radiation from artificial sources and protection from radiation from natural sources, such as sunlight or natural fires. The Council finally agreed to exclude from the directive any reference to natural optical radiation, thus limiting the scope of the directive to artificial optical radiation only.

The optical radiation directive is the fourth and last separate directive in the package of directives on European minimum standards to protect workers from noise, vibrations and electromagnetic fields (these directives have already been passed).

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