Protection from asbestos in the workplace
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
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
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.
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.