September 7, 2005

EU assembly takes heat out of “sunshine directive”

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - European employers will not
be made liable for workers' over-exposure to sunshine, the
European Parliament decided on Wednesday.

The EU legislature rejected binding Europe-wide rules by
397 to 260 with 9 abstentions, leaving it to each member state
to rule whether employers should have to protect builders, farm
labourers and barmaids working outdoors from the sun's harmful

The draft law sparked a frenzy in the British and German
tabloid press with warnings that buxom Bavarian beer garden
barmaids in low-cut tops and bricklayers wearing shorts and no
shirt on building sites would have to cover up.

A coalition of conservatives, liberals and nationalists
comfortably won more than the 367 votes needed to amend the
Optical Radiation Directive proposed by the executive European
Commission and backed by the Council of 25 member states.

Socialists and Greens argued that EU legislation was vital
to cut skin cancer rates among outdoor workers, but the right
denounced it as an example of the nanny state running amok and
over-burdening business.

Business welcomed the vote.

"Today's vote is a victory for common sense," said small
and medium business lobby group UEAPME Secretary General
Hans-Werner Mueller in a statement.

"The original proposals would ... create an unrealistic
responsibility on employers with regard to sunlight exposure,
setting a dangerous precedent in terms of future legal

The directive aims to protect workers from exposure to
artificial and natural forms of radiation that can damage eyes
and skin.

Artificial radiation comes from devices such as lasers and
ultra-violet lamps at work.

The legislation now goes to a conciliation committee in
which parliament, EU governments and the Commission must agree
on its final wording.