Analysing lobby documents on workplace exposure limits for carcinogenic substances like silica dust and ceramic fibres, among others, this report highlights how ‘Better Regulation’ is in fact an attempt to reduce the regulatory ‘burden’ on businesses, regardless of the cost to people and planet, giving industry new opportunities to steer EU rule-making in a pro-business direction. The building blocks of Better Regulation (impact assessments, stakeholder input, evaluations, self-regulation, etc) have been instrumental in industry lobbying on the Carcinogens Directive, with industry tactics including voluntary initiatives to delay regulation, attacks on studies that don’t serve their interests, pushes for greater influence via more impact assessments, and the pitting of different EU rules against each other to erode standards.
Unsurprisingly then, industry was fairly happy with the Commission’s May 2016 proposal: there are not many exposure limits, and it is not very strict. BusinessEurope urged MEPs not to slow things down by changing the Commission’s proposal. But since we’ll be stuck with these exposure limits for many years, it is vital for hundreds of thousands of workers exposed to carcinogens across the EU that we get adequate protective limits now. Thankfully, the European Parliament’s rapporteur has proposed amendments to the Commission’s proposal that go a long way towards achieving this. But it remains to be seen what improvements MEPs are willing to make: ultimately, it will come down to how they assess the relevance of costs to businesses against cost to human life.