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Information modules for the safer handling of asbestos


During the last decade, the European Union has forbidden the manufacture, distribution and trading of asbestos and has been regulating activities related to the removal of this material. However, asbestos remains a deadly material, and in spite of an extensive ban and extensive efforts made to eliminate it, it is still present everywhere throughout Europe. Against this background, the European Social Partner organisations for the construction industry, EFBWW and FIEC, decided to use the opportunity of the Bilbao Agency's campaign on safe maintenance to run joint activities on the specific issue of Maintenance/Asbestos and the instructions required for workers. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive plan aimed at eliminating all of Europe's remaining asbestos. A plan of this kind would have to be multifaceted, covering such wide-ranging issues such as working conditions, safety training, the detection and documentation of existing asbestos sites. Also the diversity in the current situations in the various Member States has to be taken into account when doing this. Whilst in some Member States very high legislative and training requirements have been put in place, in other Member States a lot still remains to be done. Therefore, the main aim of the project was on the one hand to develop information modules for different professions and activities in question and, on the other hand, to facilitate the exchange of best practices across the EU. The project brought together social partner organisations, prevention institutions and training centres. All partners have an insight in the real situation at workplaces and expertise on the asbestos issue. They agreed in developing easily understandable information modules. These modules will help the employers to inform and to instruct the workers at the workplace about possible risk situations and about the appropriate measures to be undertaken for safe working. We tried to avoid technocratic experts language. Without losing important information and without simplifying the harmful threat, the risk situation is described by means of a "traffic lights model". This model will help to make distinctions between three different risks situations, which have to be determined after a careful examination of each worksite before the beginning of the works. Each of the 3 colours green (no or little risk), orange (higher risk) and red (high risk - operations done by professional asbestos companies) are associated to specific operations/materials and to the respective appropriate measures to be undertaken.

Main objectives

The overall aim of the project was to contribute to the EU-policy on asbestos as an important part of its overall policy regarding occupational safety and health at the workplace. The ban of hazardous substances is one of the key elements of the EU health and safety policy. After the general ban of asbestos, the safe removal of still existing asbestos sources is the second leg of the distance. In this respect the training of workers is crucial. Over time, for many construction companies the risk perception towards asbestos material obviously tends to diminish. We observed that whilst significant progress has been achieved in some Member States, in several others both employers and workers know too little about the risks of asbestos. We therefore decided to help closing this gap by developing information modules for the support of the instruction of the workers by the employers. Especially workers who are accidentally confronted with asbestos containing material, have a lack of knowledge. Therefore, the precise aim of the project was to produce instruction material for those groups workers/professions. It was our purpose to present instruction material which is easily understandable and will therefore guarantee the best possible dissemination throughout Europe. Another aim of our project was the transfer of good practices, mainly towards those countries where significant improvement is still needed. The level of awareness related to asbestos problems and also to the appropriate measures, regulations and training policies is much less spread in the Central and Eastern European countries. Therefore, we put specific emphasis on these member states. This regards dissemination activities as well as the incorporation of concerned actors from these countries into the network.
It is intended to use the project results in a series of seminars in these countries, bringing together people from prevention institutes and social partner organisations. Furthermore, the project aimed at facilitating and fostering the networking between national prevention institutes, the social partners and the training providers, firstly between those institutes directly taking part in the project and secondly by running two seminars for a broader range of participants. Last but not least, the project also intended to be a social partner contribution to the current OSHA "Maintenance" campaign.

Key results

The seminar output will help to better train workers who are working with asbestos accidentally. Nine information modules have been produced, each dealing with a specific family of products. The nine modules are presented in a folder which gives basic information on asbestos and on how to work with it. Additionally, it covers some details on the project partners. Additionally a leporello/leaflet has been produced, also giving some basic information on asbestos and showing parts of the nine information modules. This leaflet is directed to workers especially. All products are available in the following languages. English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish and Spanish. They are available as a printed version and on the project partners webpages as electronic versions. A seminar was organised, on 27 June 2012. The seminar gave room to present interim results, to support networking between players from different areas and to provide feedback to the draft information modules. Then, a final seminar took place on 9/10 October 2012 in Warsaw. 46 persons from 16 European countries participated in this seminar. Representatives from different areas and types of institutions were present. Their participation ensured a critical view on the project results and, additionally, paved the way for a broad dissemination of the results. Another outcome of the project is improved networking between players form different levels and areas. It will result in joint dissemination activities. This collaboration has also opened doors to players and areas we would not have reached without the actual composition of the seminar participation. Against this background the European Social partners from the construction industry decided to apply for a follow-up project in 2013, focussing on further dissemination activities in Central and Eastern Europe. Four seminars were organised in Ljubljana, Budapest, Istanbul and Sofia.

All material was translated into Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Latvian, Romanian, Slovenian and Turkish