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EP sets new frame to protect workers from asbestos! It is time for the EC to do the same


Today, the European Parliament (EP) approved the legislative report on Protecting Workers from Asbestos. The document includes measures such as a ban on encapsulating asbestos and the recognition of all asbestos related diseases. It contains an annex for the necessary training of workers and it sets a new framework that will lower the occupational exposure limit to 1,000 fibres/m3 and describes technical aspects for the measurement of asbestos fibres at the workplace.

EFBWW and ETUC now urge the Member States and the European Commission (EC) to adapt the Commission’s proposal in line with the EP’s more ambitious and holistic approach and to go for a new OEL of 1,000 fibres/m3, measured with electronic microscopes (EM) and for no (or maximum 4-year) transition period.

However, we urge the legislator to reconsider the 10,000 fibres limit value for a possible transition period and propose a lower value as point of departure. Otherwise, the Renovation Wave in Europe will push millions of workers to suffer an unjustifiable level of exposure. By implementing the most advanced prevention technologies and practices, member States should guarantee a level of protection of maximum 1,000 fibresm³ as soon as possible. We understand that, within the possible transition period, Member States shall abandon the optical microscope as the measurement system and will use EM, a better measuring method.

Furthermore, in view of the needed renovation wave, EFBWW and ETUC expect that the European Commission immediately starts action as announced in the Communication on asbestos. This concerns firstly practical prevention, but also the screening and registration of asbestos, the management of asbestos containing waste, a SLIC campaign on asbestos as well as the training of workers.

EFBWW general secretary, Tom Deleu: “We applaud the ambitious and hard work done by the EP and we now urge Member States and the EC to guarantee a level of protection of 1,000 fibresm³. Regarding the monitoring of the implementation of the Directive, this is particularly relevant in the construction industry, where subcontracting is the norm, and most companies are SMEs. Therefore, it is also a question of equal treatment and equal protection of all workers.”

ETUC Deputy General Secretary, Claes-Mikael Ståhl: “Exposure to asbestos is the number one cause of occupational cancer in Europe, claiming the lives of more than 90,000 people a year, so there is no place for half measures. MEPs have made the only responsible choice in following the science and voting for the 1,000 fibres m3 exposure limit recommended by the International Commission of Occupational Health. On the eve of the International Workers’ Memorial Day, I call on Member States and the Commission to put the protection of people’s lives ahead of the protection of company’s profits and support the safer exposure limit, which is 10 times lower than the one contained in their proposals. EU policymakers have a particular responsibility to provide the safest possible conditions for workers at a time when the EU’s Renovation Wave policy will substantially increase the risk of exposure to asbestos.”

EPSU general secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan welcomes “the step forward for workers exposed to asbestos like waste workers or firefighters that this report means. The mandatory register for buildings with asbestos will assist those workers who go in for example during an emergency. Also, the mention to mandatory decontamination is a long-standing demand that will help trade unions to play a role nationally and at EU level.”