Protection against coronavirus takes priority
Agreement reached on amending the Directive on exposure to biological agents.
SW – 06/2020
has been classified as a biological agent in risk group 3 with additional
guarantees to protect the health and safety of workers. This was agreed by the
MEPs on the Committee for Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) of the European
Parliament and the European Commission on 11 June 2020.
On June 3
2020, the EU Commission presented its proposal for amending Directive 2000/54/EC on the protection of workers from
risks related to exposure to biological agents at work and proposed that
coronavirus be included in the list in Annex III under risk group 3, which is the
second highest risk level.
on the EMPL Committee objected to this classification and called for the virus
to be classified in risk group 4, the highest risk group, in order to ensure
the highest level of protection for the health and safety of workers. However,
at the committee meeting, Commissioner Nicolas Schmit was able to take account
of the concerns expressed by MEPs. He promised that the EU Commission would ask
the Member States to ensure that written instructions are given to all workers
exposed to the coronavirus. This is provided for in the Directive when working
with a group 4 biological agent.
The aim of
the Directive is to protect workers from risks to their safety and health
arising or potentially arising from exposure to biological agents at work. For
the purpose of the Directive, biological agents are micro-organisms, including
genetically modified micro-organisms, cell cultures and human endoparasites,
which could cause infections, allergies or toxic effects. Employers must assess
the risks to employees from activities involving biological agents and,
depending on the results of the risk assessment, define and implement
protective measures. Inclusion of the coronavirus in the list is particularly
beneficial to those working directly with the virus in hospitals, industry and
amendment to the Directive enters into force on 24 June 2020 and must be
implemented by the Member States by 24 November 2020. Member States should
ensure that employers provide written instructions to all workers exposed to
coronavirus in order to ensure there is enough suitable training. In light of
the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission will
consider whether any further amendments to the Biological Agents Directive are
necessary to ensure better preparedness and response in all workplaces.