Employment MEPs reach consensus with Commission on workers’ health and safety

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


MEPs and the Commission agreed to classify the virus that causes COVID-19 as a risk group 3 biological agent, adding more safeguards to protect all workers.

Several groups in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL) had tabled an objection to the Commission’s classification of SARS-CoV-2 as a risk group 3 biological agent, the second most dangerous category. They considered that the novel virus should be classified in risk group 4, the highest risk group, to ensure the highest possible levels of protection of workers’ health and safety.

However, during today’s EMPL meeting, Commissioner Nicolas Schmit addressed the concerns raised by MEPs and declared that the Commission will strongly encourage member states to ensure that written instructions are provided to all workers exposed to COVID-19, as also recommended in the EU guidance on protecting workers. The Commission will also assess the need to amend the Biological Agents Directive following the lessons learned during the pandemic to ensure better preparedness and response planning in all workplaces.

Based on these additional safeguards to protect workers’ health, some of the groups withdrew their objection to the classification of SARS-CoV-2 in risk group 3.

The resolution objecting to the Commission decision was rejected with 35 votes against, 5 votes in favour and 15 abstentions.

Watch the meeting again.

Next steps

The Commission decision to classify SARS-CoV-2 as a risk group 3 biological agent is adopted and in force. Member states must implement the Directive by 24 November 2020.

Background

Directive 2000/54/EC on biological agents at work lays down minimum requirements for the health and safety of workers exposed to biological agents.

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