MEPs call for far-reaching measures.

SW – 10/2021

On 20 October 2021, the European Parliament adopted its resolution containing recommendations on the protection of workers from asbestos to the European Commission.

EU strategy for the elimination of asbestos

MEPs call on the European Commission to present a European strategy for the elimination of asbestos (ESRAA). The strategy should provide for a European framework for national strategies for the safe disposal of asbestos in the Member States, including a legislative proposal to introduce minimum standards for publicly accessible national asbestos registers.

As a further component of the ESSRA, MEPs call for updating the Directive 2009/148/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work. MEPs want the exposure limit to be set at 1,000 fibres/m3 (0.001 fibres/cm3). The current EU minimum standard sets an occupational exposure limit of 100,000 fibres per m3 (0.1 fibres/cm3) for asbestos.

The MEPs' requests concerning the recognition of occupational diseases are very far-reaching, also with regard to the EU's competences in the field of social policy. The Commission shall present a legislative proposal on the recognition of occupational diseases, including all known asbestos-related diseases, with minimum requirements for recognition procedures and minimum standards for compensation of victims of asbestos-related occupational diseases.

Member States are invited to provide adequate compensation for workers suffering from asbestos-related diseases and to simplify recognition procedures. To facilitate recognition and compensation for documented victims of second-hand exposure through non-occupational contact with asbestos.

Furthermore, MEPs call for updating the Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings. The aim is to introduce an obligation for the compulsory control and subsequent removal of asbestos and other dangerous substances before the start of renovation work in order to protect the health of construction workers. MEPs are also seeking to make it compulsory for buildings to be inspected before they are sold or rented and to get asbestos certificates issued for buildings constructed before 2005.

Labour inspections and sanctions

In its report, the European Parliament emphasises the role of labour inspection. This would not only be crucial in terms of prevention and control of asbestos exposure, but would also help to improve information and increase expertise at company level. MEPs are not satisfied with the number of labour inspectors. In their view, Member States should go well beyond the International Labour Organisation's recommended figure of one inspector per 10,000 workers and increase the frequency of inspections. It is also necessary that Member States impose effective and dissuasive sanctions on companies that fail to fulfil their obligations in relation to occupational health and safety.

Next steps

In the action plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and in the EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2021 - 2027, the European Commission had announced that it would present a legislative proposal in 2022 to reduce workers' exposure to asbestos, subject to the outcome of the consultation of the social partners which ended on 30 September 2021 (see reports 04/2021 and 7/2021). The initiative was announced for the third quarter in the just published work programme de4 European Commission for 2022.

The European Parliament has only an indirect right of initiative under Article 225 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). It may invite the European Commission to submit any appropriate proposal on matters which, in its opinion, require the drafting of a Union act for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. If the European Commission does not submit a proposal, it shall inform the European Parliament of the reasons.