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Occupational health and safety for firefighters

Question écrite de Mme Elena LIZZI - Commission européenne

Question de Mme Elena LIZZI,

Diffusée le 23 avril 2024

Subject: Occupational health and safety for firefighters

Parliament has stressed the need to preserve the health and safety of workers on a number of occasions. On 10 March 2022, it even adopted a resolution on a new EU strategic framework on health and safety at work post-2020.

Then, on 3 October 2023, it endorsed a revision of Directive 2009/148/EC on the protection of workers from asbestos at work1 and, on 7 February 2024, it voted in favour of the directive on limit values for lead and its inorganic compounds and diisocyanates2.

No data or information is available in Europe that shows overall trends or how many of the EU’s 3.5 million firefighters are affected by (often fatal) diseases as a result of their exposure to invisible nanoparticles when putting out fires, or by chronic job strain-related conditions that lead to cardiovascular diseases.

In order to protect a category of workers that are needed to tackle emergencies, natural disasters and extreme climate events of ever increasing force and frequency, can the Commission answer the following:

1. What action will it take at European level to safeguard the right of access to healthcare and social services in the event of an accident at work or occupational disease?

2. How will it harmonise the legislation in force in the Member States on occupational health and safety for firefighters?

Submitted:24.4.2024

1 https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2022/0298(COD)&l=en.

2 https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2023/0033(COD)&l=en.

Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 28 mai 2024

Answer given by Mr Schmit on behalf of the European Commission

(29 May 2024)

At European level, the EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Strategic Framework (3) sets, as a crosscutting strategic objective, the improvement of the prevention of work-related accidents and diseases with the continuous update of the EU OSH directives dealing with hazardous substances.

However, the recognition of occupational accidents and diseases is a matter closely linked to the design of social security systems, which is a Member State competence, similarly to the organisation of healthcare systems.

The regular updates of the recommendation on occupational diseases (4) promote the convergence among Member States as regards the recognition and compensation of occupational diseases.

The OSH Framework Directive (5) provides protection to all workers and sectors of activity, including firefighters, except for a limited number of specific public service activities (6).

The requirements include obligations on risk assessments, preventive measures, protective equipment, health surveillance, and training.

Directive 2024/869 (7) highlights the importance that the employers of firefighters assess, in accordance with Directive 2004/37/EC (8), the risk of exposure to carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxic substances and that they take the necessary measures to protect the health and safety of those workers.

1 ∙ ⸱ https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2022/0298(COD)&l=en.

2 ∙ ⸱ https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2023/0033(COD)&l=en.

3 ∙ ⸱ EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027, COM/2021/323 final, available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?

uri=CELEX%3A52021DC0323&qid=1626089672913#PP1Contents 4 ∙ ⸱ Commission Recommendation (EU) 2022/2337 of 28 November 2022 concerning the European schedule of occupational diseases. (OJ L 309, 30.11.2022, p. 12-21). 5 ∙ ⸱

Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. (OJ L 183, 29.6.1989, p. 1). 6 ∙ ⸱

Article 2(2) of this directive contains very limited exceptions as regards certain public service activities (such exceptions are to be interpreted restrictively, see case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, for example, Case C-303/98, para 34-35, Case C-132/04, para 22-28 and C-742/19, para 56-71), but even in those situations, the safety and health of workers must be ensured as far as possible in the light of the objectives of this directive. 7 ∙ ⸱ Recital 28 of Directive (EU) 2024/869 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 March 2024 amending Directive 2004/37/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Directive 98/24/EC as regards the limit values for lead and its inorganic compounds and for diisocyanates. (OJ L 2024/869, 19.3.2024). 8 ∙ ⸱

Directive 2004/37/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens, mutagens or reprotoxic substances at work (Sixth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Council Directive 89/391/EEC) (OJ L 158, 30.4.2004, p. 50).
















| | ) The Commission proposed limit values for several substances of concern for firefighters, such as chromium VI, formaldehyde, benzene and asbestos, and is working on the revision of other relevant substances, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Moreover, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) provides valuable information and supporting tools, as well as a case study on protecting the health of firefighters.

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