German Social Accident Insurance: mutual recognition of technical standards in TTIP endangers occupational safety and health



The European Commission has confirmed in a written communication to the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) should not impact negatively upon the existing high standards in the areas of health, safety and environmental protection. In the communication, the Commission explains that the aim is to strengthen international standards and to avoid divergent provisions in the future. The German Social Accident Insurance Institutions for the public and private sectors welcome this clear statement. They nevertheless continue to caution against blanket mutual recognition of standards, which in their view could impact negatively upon safety and health at work.

Technical regulations, standards and specifications have the purpose of making products safe and reliable. They therefore have a key function for safety and health at work. "Standards and specifications and the working environment for which they were created have a reciprocal influence. They reflect the different safety philosophies on their respective sides of the Atlantic," explains Dr Joachim Breuer, Director General of the DGUV. "Perceiving them merely as barriers to trade is to overlook the risks of accident and disease that could result from blanket mutual recognition of technical provisions."

Together with the Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardization (KAN) and CIOP-PIB, the Polish OSH institute, the DGUV has identified specific examples. In the experts' view, the area of respiratory masks is an example of the problem. In the EU, respiratory masks must be tested by a notified body before being placed on the market. This includes testing of the mask's leaktightness. Users rely upon these third-party tests having been passed. In the USA, such third-party testing is not mandatory; instead, companies are obliged by OSH regulations to check the leaktightness of respiratory masks before they are used. Safe use of the masks can be assured by either approach. However, if masks from the USA were to be placed on the market in the EU without being tested by third parties and users were to have no way of knowing that third-party testing of the leaktightness had not been performed, the consequences could be fatal.


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