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November 10, 2009

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“Pragmatic” proposals on optical radiation issued by HSE

The Health and Safety Executive has launched a consultation on how it plans to implement a European Union directive to protect workers from hazardous sources of artificial light.

The artificial optical radiation directive (2006/25/EC) covers intense sources of artificial light in the workplace, particularly from UV radiation and powerful lasers, which can harm the eyes and skin of workers.

It aims to ensure that standards are set and harmonised across the EU so all workers are protected from harm arising from exposure to hazardous sources of artificial light. The HSE says the draft regulations are designed to ensure that businesses do not face unnecessary additional burdens where there is no risk of harm to workers. Common sources of light in the workplace, such as office lights, photocopiers and computers, will not be affected by the regulations.

The chair of the Executive, Judith Hackitt, said: “HSE wants to ensure all workers benefit from this directive, and the draft regulations present a good opportunity to meet our aim. These regulations will impact on a small number of at-risk businesses who use hazardous-light sources as part of their work activities, and who are not already protecting their workers by managing the risks.

EEF the manufacturers’ organisation, which has campaigned vociferously against the directive, welcomed the pragmatic approach being taken by the HSE in its consultation. Citing the Executive’s impact assessment, which estimates the cost of implementing the directive to be between £1m and £5m in the first year, and from £4m to £19m in 10 years, with no health and safety benefits, the EEF applauded the HSE’s “realistic approach” by clearly indicating guidance on safe light sources and other sources where no special conditions are required. 

Said the organisation’s health and safety advisor, Steve Walter: “The HSE is taking a welcome, pragmatic approach to what is an impractical, unrealistic and unnecessary EU law that even [the HSE] admits will bring no additional health and safety benefits to the UK.”

However, the EEF also expressed concern that some consultants may try to cash in on uncertainty and complexity around assessing the risks and implementing controls.

The consultation document can be viewed here. Interested parties and businesses are invited to comment on the draft regulations before the beginning of February 2010. The HSE aims to introduce legislation by 27 April 2010.

For a previous feature article from SHP on the directive, click here.

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