THE EUROPEAN Parliament has now closed for the summer break and most sensible people have been spending their holiday trying to soak up the sun. But when MEPs return, sunlight will still be high on our agenda thanks to a proposed EU Directive.
For several months now, a new piece of health and safety legislation has been under discussion to protect workers from the dangers of optical radiation – the sort you can experience if you sit in front of a computer screen all day.
It does make good sense, in theory, for there to be common safety standards for such equipment throughout the EU, so that employees can be sure they have equal protection wherever they work.
But, in practice, some bright European spark has maintained that because the biggest source of radiation is the sun, employees should be protected from that too. The proposal is that each employer, whose employees might have to work outside, should not only have to monitor – and record – the sun’s radiation on a daily basis, but should also have to provide T-shirts and caps, as well as advice on the need to wear them whenever the sun gets too strong. Why not sunglasses and sun cream as well, one wonders?
Building Trade Associations throughout the EU are understandably up in arms about this proposal. They see it not just as another business burden, but potentially a massive financial liability. By maintaining that the employer has a major responsibility for telling an employee that the sun is actually shining, this would relieve the employee of his/her own common sense responsibility to cover up. If someone got skin cancer years later, arguably an earlier employer could be sued for not having insisted strongly enough that the employee took obvious precautions.
The proposal would, of course, not just affect builders. Farmers are also going berserk and so is the leisure industry, especially in Spain and Portugal.
If this all sounds as if the proposer probably suffered a touch of sunstroke in coming up with the idea in the first place, it is worth noting that the UK government has not raised a finger against it. The way things are currently looking, the UK, now holding the six month Presidency of the European Council and stating that its major objective would be the reduction of red tape, will presumably passively preside over the introduction of yet more.
Some of us will be fighting this proposal robustly. However, the good news is that, if it still goes through unchanged, the Directive might at least bring extra business to manufacturers of T-shirts and caps. The bad news is that, partly because of exactly this sort of excessive red tape imposed upon EU companies, most such manufacturers are now in China.