Which measures do the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive at work (CMD) impose?

According to Articles 3 to 6 of Directive 2004/37/EC, the employers have the duty to determine and assess the risks for activities in which workers are or are likely to be exposed to carcinogens or mutagens as a result of their work. They have to supply the responsible authorities at their request with the results of the risk assessment and the measures taken, including the reasons for which carcinogens / mutagens are used.

In so far as technically possible, employers must reduce the use of a carcinogen / mutagen by replacing it with substances / mixtures / processes which are not or are less dangerous and they have to submit the findings of their investigations to the competent authorities at their request.

If substitution (or work in closed system) is not technically possible, the next measure(s) according to the hierarchy of preventive measures (Article 5) have to be taken.

How these obligations will be implemented in Europe will largely depend on how the CMD wording is interpreted and enforced at member state level.

Regarding RCS, it is important to note that the entry in Annex I refers to work processes generating such respirable dust.

Through the NEPSI Social Dialogue Agreement (SDA), the signatory industries have developed a comprehensive set of guidance and assessment techniques that address the minimization measures, taking into account the wide diversity of industrial circumstances and the best ways to address them with specific sectoral expertise. It can be seen that the SDA is complementary to the general requirements of the Directive and, by following the NEPSI Guidance, the signatories implement these requirements in an informed and tailored way.

This means, that if NEPSI employers’ industries can demonstrate after their risk assessment to the competent authorities that substitution of the processes generating respirable crystalline silica dust is not possible, then they can go to the next step of the hierarchy of obligations of the CMD. The NEPSI Good Practice Guide contains a tailor-made approach for industrial processes to substitute RCS generating processes by less dangerous ones or at least to minimize exposure as low as technically possible.

For comparison and as a practical consideration, the inclusion of wood dust in Annex I & III (with OEL) has not materially affected the capacity of the woodworking industries to continue to function whilst at the same time providing the necessary level of protection of workers' health.