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IWMD23: Construction workers must be protected from asbestos


On this International Workers’ Memorial Day, the EFBWW and BWI renew their commitment to fight for safe and healthy workplaces for all workers, and call on all institutions, governments and industries to prioritise the protection of workers from all hazardous chemicals and materials and especially asbestos.

Asbestos is still a killer all over the world. The annual asbestos-related death rate is already at 85,000 people in the European Union alone, a number that can be compared to another disastrous figure of 26,000 people who died in traffic accidents in 2022. It is undisputed that action is required. Otherwise, we will be confronted with an additional pandemic of asbestos-related diseases.

This week, the European Parliament (EP) approved - with 40 votes in favour and seven abstentions - the proposal of compromise amendments on the revision of the proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2009/148/EC on protecting workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work. The EP has now the mandate to start trialogue negotiations. Hence, we call on the European Commission to act and revise the directive in line with the demands of the EP.

At the same time, BWI and EFBWW call on all Parties to the Rotterdam Convention to support the proposed amendment and take bold action to ensure it remains an effective tool for protecting workers and the environment.

The proposed amendment would enable Parties who want to share information about hazardous chemicals to continue to do so. In addition, it introduces the possibility for the chemicals which the Chemical Review Committee (CRC) considers to meet the criteria for listing, - to be listed in a new annexe with a support of a three-fourths majority vote.

The above opportunities must be used to the full as they can help eliminating and reducing exposure to asbestos. Workers and union members have a right to be protected from the hazardous substances and materials they work with and to know about the risks to their health and safety. Let us honour the memory of those we have lost by continuing to fight for a safer, healthier future for all workers.