There are a group of directives which provide for a common approach to particularly risky activities, substances, and processes.  In each of the relevant areas the general approach of risk assessment is applied with obligations on the employer to identify and if possible eliminate the risk entirely.

In the case of several of the directives there are exposure of values and exposure limit.  Where exposure values are exceeded extra monitoring is required.  Where the exposure limits are exceeded immediate steps must be taken to rectify the position.

Health surveillance is required where particular risks are involved.  Employees and their representatives must be consulted.  They’re entitled to access to their files.  Records must be kept for a certain period.

There are specific directives in the area of

  • Exposure to noise
  • Mechanical vibration
  • Biological agents
  • Chemical agents
  • Exposure to electromagnetic fields
  • Exposure to carcinogens

There are directives involving a similar approach to be taken in respect of risks from physical agents, chemical agents, biological agents, and carcinogen.

Physical agents refer to the risk of injury from vibrations.  This may be vibration transmitted through the hand or arm entailing risks to the health and safety of workers, in particular vascular bone or joint neurological or muscular disorders or vibration which is  transmitted to the whole body and entails risk to health and safety of the worker particularly in relation to lower back mobility and trauma to the spine. There are technical requirements in respect of exposure limit for each type of vibration

The requisite risk assessment must be undertaken in the same manner as set out above.  The directive sets out matters which must be considered in the context of the risk assessment.  This includes

  • level type and duration of exposure,
  • exposure limit values and action values,
  • risks applicable to particularly sensitive groups,
  • manufacturer’s instructions on equipment,
  • existence of replacement equipment.

On the basis of the risk assessment, employers must determine what measures are taken to avoid and reduce risks.  Once the action values are exceeded, the employer must establish and implement a program of technical and /or organisational measures to a minimise the mechanical vibration and risks taking account of

  • Other working methods,
  • choice of appropriate equipment,
  • use of auxiliary equipment such as seats that reduce vibration
  • Maintenance program,
  • design and layout of work,
  • training

Workers shall not be exposed above the exposure limit.  If this occurs immediate remedial action is required.

The employer must inform the employee of the risks and measures taken to mitigate it.

Health surveillance is appropriate where the exposure is such that a link can be established between an identifiable illness and harmful effect in health or it is probable that the illness or the effects occur as a result of working conditions. In any event workers exposed to the action value limit are entitled to appropriate health surveillance.

States must take measures to ensure that each employee undertakes health surveillance and health records are kept. Where an employee is found to have an identifiable disease or adverse health effect, the employee must be informed and advised appropriately.

The employer must be informed and must immediately review and take steps to eliminate the risk. Limited derogations are permissible by competent authorities in particular fields.

There are similar provisions in respect of electromagnetic fields.  The exposure limit values are defined by the directive on the basis of frequencies that are recognised as having harmful effect on human cardiovascular systems or central nervous system, or capable of causing whole body heat, stress, or excess localised heating of tissues.

The action values are specified in the directives. Employers must assess the development of risks and make provisions to reduce or eliminate it.

If the action values are exceeded, the employers must devise and implement an action plan comprising technical or organisational measures to prevent exposures from exceeding the exposure limit value.  This may require modification of working methods, choice of equipment, better design of workstations.

Employees are entitled to information regarding risk assessment and measures taken.

Health surveillance is required where the limit values are exceeded.  Employees must have access to their own health records.

The provisions in the directive in respect to hazardous chemical agents covers a range of hazardous agents which are identified as being potentially harmful to human health.  Indicative exposure levels are established at Community level and member states must establish  national exposure limits, taking account of the EU value.

The employer must determine whether hazardous chemical agents are present in the workplace and assess the risk having regard to the hazardous properties, degree of exposure, information on health and safety provided by the employer, national occupational limits, effective preventive measures

Where several hazardous agents are present, the risk assessment must be appraised on the basis of the agents in combination. Where a new activity involving hazardous chemical agent commences, the relevant risk assessment and preventative measures must first be taken.

Risks must be eliminated or reduced by a combination of factors including

  • Design and organisation of work,
  • provision of equipment,
  • reducing exposure,
  • appropriate hygiene measures,
  • working procedures,
  • reducing the quantity of agents

The risks must be eliminated or reduced to a minimum preferably by substitution.

In order of priority the following is required

  • Design of appropriate processes and controls so as to avoid and minimise release of agents
  • Application of collective protection measures
  • Personal protection measures

Measures must be accompanied by health surveillance if this is appropriate to the nature of the risk.  Chemical agents must be measured here they  present a risk to human health.  Further  steps must be taken to prevent and eliminate the risks in the workplace.  Procedures must be provided for in the event of an accident incident or emergency.  Safely drills must be  undertaken at regular intervals

Information must be available on emergency arrangements.  Advance notice of work hazards to emergency services may be required.  Information must be available on specific hazards that make arise in an emergency.

  • Employees must be provided with
  • the result of risk assessment,
  • full information on hazardous chemicals,
  • training and information and
  • access to safety data sheets.

Steps must be taken to ensure

  • containers and pipes are clearly identified
  • Certain chemical agents and activities are entirely prohibited

Limited derogations are possible.

Health surveillance on workers is required where risk assessment reveals a risk to health.

Health surveillance is compulsory when binding limits have been set.  Records and exposure records must be kept up-to-date.  Where a worker is found to have a disease or adverse health effect, they must be immediately informed by a doctor who will provide information and advice regarding health surveillance.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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