EC has launched the second phase of consultation with social partners.

SW – 07/2021

In parallel with the EU's new strategic framework for occupational health and safety, the EC launched the second phase of consultations with the social partners on the risks of exposure to chemical agents and asbestos at work 28 June 2021.

In the first phase of the consultations, held from December 2020 to February 2021, the social partners were consulted about the possible direction of EU action with regard to revising the Chemical Agents at Work Directive and the Asbestos Directive, with a view to setting or reviewing binding occupational exposure limit values or biological limit values for asbestos, lead and diisocyanates. The latter can cause asthma and skin diseases and it is used in car paints and construction foams, etc.

Based of the responses, the EC has concluded that further EU action is required. With the second phase of the consultations, the EC now wants to gather the opinions of the social partners on the content of the planned EU measures to revise the directives.

Although it can no longer be manufactured or used in the EU, diseases caused by asbestos are unfortunately still a topical issue, partly because of the very long latency period, which can be up to 40 years. The wave of renovations, which are intended to contribute to the climate neutrality of buildings as part of the European Green Deal, also raises the problem of contaminated sites, where asbestos, which was frequently used many years ago, has to be removed. According to the EC, asbestos exposure claims about 88,000 lives a year in Europe, and this accounts for 55 - 85 per cent of lung cancer cases that developed in the workplace.

Next steps

The second phase of the consultation will run until 30 September 2021. During the consultation phase, the social partners might decide to terminate the procedure and negotiate an agreement between themselves. If the social partners do not want to enter into negotiations, then the EC will present an initiative for occupational health and safety in 2022, as announced in the new EU strategic framework.

Also on 30 September 2021, MEPs in the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs committee will decide on their own-initiative report on "Protecting workers from asbestos", which will call on the EC to present a European strategy for eliminating asbestos (see Report 4-2021).