Agreement reached on noise Directive

In November 2002, a European Parliament/Council of Ministers conciliation committee reached political agreement on the text of a new Directive limiting noise at the workplace. The text should be formally adopted during December 2002.

The European Commission originally proposed a Directive limiting noise at the workplace in 1992, within the context of a broader Directive limiting workers’ exposure to physical agents. A newer proposal dates from 1999, when the Commission split the proposed physical agents Directive into individual proposals, one of which related to noise (EU0106220F).

As this proposal is subject to the co-decision procedure, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of Ministers must agree on the content of the final text. If they cannot agree, a consensus must be brokered by a joint conciliation committee.

As the Council could not accept all of the amendments (19 in total) to the text made by the EP at its second reading on 13 March 2002, an EP/Council conciliation committee began work on the text on 12 September 2002. The committee reached an agreement on the text, which was published on 13 November 2002. Formal adoption of the text by the Council and the EP should take place during December 2002, in the EP’s case during its plenary session set for early December.

The Directive introduces stricter limits on noise at work, providing for a limit of an average of 87 dB, calculated over a period of one week. Existing EU legislation governing noise at work provides for a limit of 90dB.

The Directive will come into force three years after formal adoption, although Member States will have an extra two years to apply the Directive’s provisions to the music and entertainment sector.

The text applies only to workers exposed to noise at work. It does not apply to members of the public.

The Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, has praised the conciliation committee’s text, stating that it 'improves protection for workers in accordance with new science but maintains a balance between the needs of the workforce and the legitimate calls of business not to suffer unnecessary burdens'.

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