Better protection of workers from exposure to asbestos hazards

MB/UV – 06/2023

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) reported on 12 June on the status of the revision of the Asbestos Directive following trialogue negotiations on 11 May and 7 June. Further talks took place on 15 June as the ideas of the European Parliament could not yet be brought into line with the approaches of the European Commission and the Council.

What does the European Parliament want?

The European Parliament adopted its position on 10 May. The core demands of the Members of Parliament (MEPs) go far beyond the proposal of the European Commission: The MEPs demand compliance with a maximum allowable concentration of 0.001 fibres/cm³, which is to be measured by means of electron microscopy over a period of eight hours as a shift average. The strict exposure limit should already apply after a four-year transition period; until then, the exposure limit of 0.01 fibres/cm³ proposed by the European Commission would apply. In this transitional phase, the exposure could continue to be measured with the currently used phase-contrast microscopy in order to implement the more modern technology in the meantime.

In addition, the European Parliament would like to see a general increase in awareness in dealing with asbestos (e.g. obligatory decontamination procedures, reporting obligations, better training in handling the hazardous substance). To this end, guidelines in cooperation with the social partners on the implementation of the directive would be important. 

What does the Council want?

December last year, the Council of the European Union endorsed the proposal of the European Commission and a reduction of 0.01 fibres/cm³ and the use of modern electron microscopy. The Council also supports the transitional period of seven years to allow Member States sufficient time to introduce the new measurement method.

The compromise is being worked on

In the meantime, there are signs that the negotiating partners could reach an agreement on some issues in the near future, for instance in the definition and scope of the directive. This could also cover fibres comparable to asbestos and passive or secondary exposure.

However, no agreement has yet been reached on the core aspects of the dispute (level of the exposure limit value, measurement method and transition period). The Swedish Council Presidency, however, continues to try to bring the trialogue l to a timely conclusion. Therefore, another hearing date is scheduled for as early as 27 June.

The German Social Insurance (DSV) had positioned itself by passing an opinion on the draft directive in January.