September 2, 2005
New rules on sun exposure divide EU lawmakers
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament is split over
controversial legislation intended to protect workers from
over-exposure to sunshine, ahead of a vote next week.
The 732-member assembly will vote next Wednesday on a bill
which seeks to protect workers from exposure to artificial and
natural forms of radiation which can damage eyes and skin.
Tabloid media in Europe had a field day with the draft
European Union rules during the summer, with Britain's Sun
newspaper running a 'Save our Jugs' campaign amid fears that
barmaids with low-cut tops would have to cover up.
Conservatives and liberals in the EU assembly are against
mandatory rules that would force employers to evaluate the
risks of sunshine to their staff working outdoors. Instead, the
EU's 25 member states should decide individually whether
employers need to act, spokesmen from the two groups said on
But Socialist and Green members want construction workers,
barmaids and other people working outdoors to be informed of
the risks, especially with rising rates of skin cancer.
"We think the directive here is justified. But it's been
really portrayed in a very distorted fashion," said a Green
The European Commission, author of the Optical Radiation
Directive, said employers were liable for the health and safety
of their workers and that EU-wide rules were necessary.
"The parliament wants the member states themselves to
decide whether sunlight is a risk or not," said Commission
spokeswoman Katharina Von Schnurbein.
"That's totally unacceptable for the Commission."
But small and medium-sized firms said the rules were costly
and over the top.
"Small firms with employees outdoors, for example caf©s and
construction firms, have neither the resources nor, more
importantly, the expertise to undertake sufficient scientific
analysis," said European small and medium business organization
(UEAPME) Secretary General Hans-Werner Mueller in a statement.
"These proposals would place an unmanageable burden on
small and medium businesses and could open up a can of worms
with regard to legal liability."