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Builders and barmaids avoid EU tan ban

September 7, 2005

By Aine Gallagher

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – Builders and barmaids
working outdoors will not have to be shielded from sunshine by
their employers under European Union rules after a revolt by
lawmakers on Wednesday.

The European Parliament voted to leave it to individual EU
states to regulate whether bosses should have to protect staff
from the sun’s harmful radiation, in a victory for pro-business
conservative, liberal and nationalist deputies.

“It’s a great victory for deregulation and less
bureaucracy,” German conservative Anja Weisgerber told Reuters.

The proposal sparked a frenzy in the British and German
tabloid press with warnings that buxom Bavarian beer garden
barmaids in low-cut tops and bricklayers with naked torsos
would have to cover up, although that was not what the draft
law said.

Socialists and Greens argued 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.

British Socialist Stephen Hughes said an opportunity to
give workers more information had been lost.

“No employer out there should think that this means they
needn’t take account of solar radiation,” he told Reuters,
adding that existing EU law laid down the principle of employer
responsibility for over-exposure to sunlight.

“COMMON SENSE”

Parliament rejected binding Europe-wide rules by 397 to 260
with nine abstentions — more than the absolute majority needed
to amend legislation proposed by the executive European
Commission and backed by the Council of EU member states.

Parliament, governments and the Commission must now meet in
a conciliation committee to agree on the final wording.

In its original form, the Optical Radiation Directive would
have forced employers to monitor workers’ exposure to the sun,
assess the risks and provide them with information.

The EU executive, which drafted the legislation to protect
workers from exposure to artificial and natural radiation, said
it would seek to balance worker rights with reaching a deal.

Artificial radiation comes from devices such as lasers and
ultra-violet lamps. All radiation can damage the skin and eyes.

Business welcomed the vote.

“Today’s vote is a victory for common sense,” Hans-Werner
Mueller, secretary-general of small and medium business lobby
group UEAPME, said 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
liability.”

Irish conservative Avril Doyle said common sense had
prevailed in the vote. “If ultimately I get skin cancer through
irresponsible choices despite all the health warnings, should
my employers be left to carry the can?” she asked in a
statement.




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