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08.12.2016

Silica dust: exposure limit should be realistic

The revision of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive has been on the agenda of the last meeting of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) Committee and of the European Construction Social Dialogue.

A key issue is the binding Occupational Exposure Limit value related to silica dust. The report of MEP Marita ULVSKOG (Sweden/S&D) introduces a limit of 0.05 mg/ m3, lowering by half the 0.1mg/m3 limit recommended by the European Commission.

EBC and FIEC, the European construction employers organisations, presented a position paper against the inclusion of silica dust in the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive. If silica dust has to be covered by this directive, EBC and FIEC asks for a pragmatic and realistic limit value applicable on the ground.

A binding Exposure Limit would be counterproductive to both the protection of workers and the activity of construction enterprises. Firstly, current measurement methods are not adapted to very low levels. Secondly, the risk of non-compliance by companies is very high as the administrative and financial burden would be so high that SMEs risk to close down. Finally, more scientific evidence is needed to prove that lower levels than 0.1mg/m3 are realistic measures to protect workers.

Effective actions that would reduce the health risks arising from prolonged exposure in work processes are:

   •  Awareness raising campaigns

   •  Full implementation of existing legislation

   •  Cooperation between social partners in existing paritarian institutions

EBC and FIEC will send some amendments to the EU Parliament’s report, the deadline for amendments being on 9 January.