by Raissa Havens
On July 13, 2020, the Ministry of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security published Law Decree 35/2020 regarding risks associated with exposure to carcinogens and/or mutagens at the workplace, which was published in the Official Gazette of the Republic number 134 on the same day. The document entered into force on August 3, 2020.
The Law Decree transposed Directive (EU) 2017/2398 of the European Parliament of the Council of December 12, 2017, Directive (EU) 2019/130 of the European Parliament of the Council of January 16, 2019 and Directive (EU) 2019/983 of the European Parliament of the Council of June, 5 2019.
In the Portuguese legal system, Law Decree No. 301 of November 18, 2000 specifically regulates the protection of workers against the risks of exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic agents at work. It was first amended on May 28, by Law Decree 88/2015, which updated the framework for occupational limit values for the exposure of workers to these agents.
Although the elimination of risk to workers health and safety is not assured, the definition of limit values at the workplace contributes to a significant reduction on the risks resulting from occupational exposure to those agents and for this purpose, limit values should be revised regularly.
The Law Decree adds new substances that are considered carcinogens which arise from certain work processes, such as those that involve exposure to respirable crystalline Silica dust, diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEEs) and skin exposure to mineral oils, previously used in engines to lubricate and cool engine parts. Furthermore, it modifies other limit values for carcinogens and mutagens
The employer must assess the safety and health risk of workers, determining the nature, degree and time of exposure to the carcinogen or mutagen, as well as the concentration in the atmosphere of the workplace and the real conditions of exposure, including the interaction with other agents or occupational risk factors. The employer must also organize and archive the updated data record in electronic form, namely the records of accidents and incidents at work and of reported and confirmed occupational diseases. Every 3 months, risk assessments must be carried out, in the event that working conditions are changed, if the occupational exposure limit value is exceeded or if the health surveillance justifies the need for a new evaluation
Under the transitional provision of the Law Decree, certain substances have an extended period to comply with the limit values, as follows:
- Until January 17, 2023: Hardwood dusts
- Until February 21, 2023: Diesel engine exhaust emissions
- Until June 25, 2023: Arsenic acid, Arsenic salts and inorganic compounds for the iron casting sector
- Until July 11, 2024: Formaldehyde for the health care, funeral and embalming sectors
- Until January 17, 2025: Chromium (VI) compounds
- Until July 11, 2026: Beryllium and its inorganic compounds and
- Until July 11, 2027: Cadmium and its inorganic compounds.
The Institute for the Development and Inspection of Working Conditions (IDICT) and the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) are responsible for the enforcement of this Law Decree. In the Autonomous Regions of the Azores and Madeira, the bodies and services of the respective regional administrations.
Recommended Action Items:
- Review current occupational exposure limits for any carcinogenic agents against this update.
- Ensure all labelling, SDS and risk assessments comply with the new workplace exposure limits for carcinogenic or mutagenic agents, taking into consideration interaction with other agents or occupational risk factors workers can be exposed to.
- Ensure records of incidents at work, as well as confirmed occupational diseases in electronic form are archived.
Law Decree 35 of July 13, 2020. Transposition of Directives (EU) 2017/2398, 2019/130 and 2019/983 – https://dre.pt/pesquisa/-/search/137703603/details/maximized
Law Decree 301 of November 18, 2000 on the protection of workers against the risks associated with exposure at work to carcinogens or mutagens – https://dre.pt/pesquisa/-/search/616576/details/maximized
Portugal, Carcinogenic Agents, Mutagenic agents, Occupational Exposure Limits, Work Health and Safety, Risk Assessments
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