Commission sets ambitious reduction targets but more needed to ensure agri-workers’ health and safety protection
With a three-month delay, the European Commission has finally released its proposals for the Regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products (SUR) confirming the objective enshrined in the Farm to Fork Strategy of 50% pesticides use and risk reduction targets by 2030.
However, EFFAT finds clear shortcomings in the text which will need to be addressed throughout the upcoming legislative process:
Pesticide reduction: EFFAT welcomes the setting of the ambitious target of 50% reduction, as less pesticides use means less risks for agricultural workers’ health and safety. Nonetheless, EFFAT warns on the need to ensure strict and more effective monitoring of this reduction targets as data on the actual use of pesticides are far from being reliable. EFFAT also regrets the lack of personal accountability and sanctions for employers not respecting these reduction targets.
Lack of clarity on Health and Safety obligations: Despite the improvement of workers’ health and safety is one of the objectives of the Regulation, EFFAT regrets to see that the only references to existing EU health and safety legal acts are in the recitals. The regulation should better clarify the link between these new provisions and Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) employers’ obligations. The text should clarify how these new rules and existing OSH standards and obligations complement each other.
No recognition of occupational diseases linked to pesticide use: EFFAT regrets the lack of a clear obligation for Member States to recognise occupational diseases linked to pesticide use. For example, only France and Italy officially recognise Parkinson’s disease to be linked to farm work. Member States must facilitate the reporting of occupational cancers caused by pesticides and recognise and compensate them properly. EFFAT will advocate for the introduction of the right for each agricultural worker to access official documentation reporting the type of pesticides used during their work activity as demanded by the recently adopted EP Resolution on the Farm to Fork Strategy (point 13). This documentation would allow farm workers falling sick because of the exposure to pesticides to get occupational diseases properly recognised. The documentation would be crucial in those cases where the disease appears years after the end of the career as agricultural worker.
Social partners involvement must be strengthened: Social partners involvement in the definition of national action plans is key to anticipate change linked to pesticides use reduction. The involvement of social partners in such plans is however only mentioned in the recitals. EFFAT will work to ensure this becomes a clear obligation for all Member States.
Training: EFFAT supports the new stricter rules on training and certifications. However, EFFAT regrets to see that there is not a clear obligation for employers to provide and pay for training on pesticide use. The lack of distinction in the definition of professional user between employer and employees doesn’t help determine different role and responsibilities.
Just transition measures need better consideration: The text doesn’t include yet key EFFAT Just Transition measures such as the need to carry out rigorous socio-economic impact assessment linked to pesticide reduction, or the provision of resources linked to social conditionalities.
Kristjan Bragason, EFFAT General Secretary said: ‘This regulation is a good step towards building a more sustainable and safer agriculture sector. However, key changes are still needed because the pesticide peril in Europe is real. Exposure to pesticides and agrochemicals constitutes one of the major risks faced by farm workers although still largely underestimated. Protecting workers’ health and safety means striving for a truly sustainable agriculture’.
EFFAT will now closely follow the legislative process and advocate for key changes to the benefit of all agri- workers in Europe