Asbestos: EBC and FIEC meet Commission to discuss a realistic removal framework

Last year, the European Commission initiated the process to update the EU legislative framework for the removal of asbestos from buildings. In this context, EBC & FIEC together met with officials from the European Commission in December, to discuss the possibilities for a realistic and effective framework on asbestos removal.

In its Renovation Wave Strategy, the European Commission aims to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030, also ambitioning to upkeep a set of quality standards, such as high health and environmental standards. This includes “the removal of and protection against harmful substances such as asbestos,” which is to be achieved while paying “particular attention to protecting workers renovating old buildings from exposure to asbestos, also through appropriate training.” The Commission therefore aims to improve the existing framework, notably by revising Directive 2009/148/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work.

At the same time, broad support was reached in the European Parliament for a non-binding report last October. The report calls, inter alia, for the Commission to propose a radically lower EU-wide binding occupational exposure limit (OEL) value for asbestos, specifically at 0.001 fibres/cm3 as an 8-hour time-weighted average, instead of the current EU threshold of is 0.1 fibres/cm3.

In December, EBC and FIEC presented the Commission with their approach, as reflected in their joint press release . The two organisations reiterated the need for health and safety legislation to remain realistic and practicable for companies, following a reliable cost/benefit assessment. In this regard, a reduction of the OEL should not be the only objective, as other provisions and accompanying measures should be considered (e.g., the need to focus on providing appropriate training of workers). Incentives will be needed for companies and homeowners to proceed with removal of asbestos, especially in view of the Renovation Wave, to avoid perpetuating its presence in Europe’s built environment.

The officials from DG EMPL welcomed the dialogue and contribution of the construction industry thereof. They noted that the Commission is in the process of drafting an impact assessment (IA) based on both scientific and socio-economic elements, notably the input of the EU social partners’ consultation, an external study, scientific information from the European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA) RAC committee and the Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work (ACSH) opinion.

A call for evidence is to be published in the coming weeks, as the Commission is expected to publish a legislative proposal by Q3 2022, together with the pertinent impact assessment.

EBC will contribute to this consultation and maintain close collaboration with FIEC on the dossier.