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Finalised EU projects

Reducing Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust Effectively


Short description of the action

With the revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive an Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) of 0.1 mg/m³ for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) was established. RCS is the most prevalent dust in construction work. The European Social Partner organisations for the Construction sector (EFBWW and FIEC) consider the practical implementation of this new limit value as a challenge, but also as a joint task.

EFBWW and FIEC already did joint activities in the field of asbestos dust and they established an ad-hoc working group to support the implementation of the new occupational limit value for Respirable Crystalline Silica. The working group elaborated the concept for this project, which constitutes one initiative as part of a broader willingness to cooperate on implementation activities.

The project aimed at bringing together social partners and other experts, namely prevention authorities and scientists, to elaborate a guidance for as many construction activities as possible. Both organisations believe that meanwhile technical and organisational means are available to keep the new limit value for most construction activities.

The idea was to compile existing research knowledge in this field and to present a state of the art scientific report dealing with both knowledge regarding exposure with and without prevention measures and also discussing the state of the art in terms of prevention measures. 
The practical guidance should be distributed all over Europe, giving companies but also workers and their representatives the basic knowledge to improve their prevention practices.


Main objectives of the action

The main objectives of the project were:
1. Bringing together stakeholders to work jointly on a better prevention against RCS exposure in construction works;
2. Mapping various types of construction works and evaluate their level of RCS exposure;
3. Evaluating the level of protection needed for the different types of construction works identified and the feasibility of keeping exposure below the limit value (traffic light system);
4. Describing technical and organisational measures to reach the best achievable level of protection;
5. Making the information available in as many languages as possible;
6. Providing guidance on the needed technical innovations for those activities for which the new limit value is more complicated or impossible to achieve; 

Furthermore, the project aimed at fostering discussions and activities at national level by involving national members and experts from, amongst others, national prevention institutions and the continuous reporting within the structures of the European Social Dialogue. It was also planned to present a plan for dissemination and follow up activities, guaranteeing a long-lasting impact of the project.
The project partners organised a one-day workshop at the beginning of the project and a final conference to present the project results and deliverables at the end. 


Key results

Project activities have been executed as planned. The workshop in the beginning of the project brought together some 100 participants from various levels, as did the final conference. The steering group was composed of people from social partners, practitioners, prevention experts and people from the scientific level. A regular reporting to the internal structure of the project partners and the European Social Dialogue for the construction sector ensured ongoing feedback.

The published research report (English) presents the state of knowledge regarding exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust in construction and the current status of prevention measures for major construction activities. This report is mainly directed to social partner organisations, prevention experts and authorities and the scientific level.

A Mapping/Guidance, mainly directed to the various practitioners on company level presents a wide range of specific construction activities. For each of these activities, by using the traffic light system, measures are described for a red zone (no protection), a grey zone (probably not sufficient protection) and a green zone (protection measures that will keep the occupational limit value). This guidance is published in 12 languages. Both deliverables are available in electronic and printed versions.

A third deliverable is a working paper discussing areas and construction activities for which we still need technical or organisational innovation to keep the exposure limit value. The project partners established a working party that shall continue to work on this areas and the successful dissemination of the project results after the end of the project.