Asbestos: EBC calls for strong accompanying measures alongside a realistic limit value

In the wider context of the dialogue on asbestos stemming from the Renovation Wave, the European Commission has put forward a legislative initiative aiming to improve workers’ health and safety by revising the Directive on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work. In this vein, the Commission opened a call for feedback which ran for four weeks, from 22 February until 22 March this year.

During the course of last year, EBC had issued a joint press release with FIEC, expressing the industry’s view on the ways to improve the existing framework. FIEC and EBC also met with the European Commission in December with regard to this issue.

EBC has now contributed its position to Commission’s call for feedback, which reflects the concerns of construction SMEs and the broader industry when it comes to the issue of protecting our worker while at the same time eliminating the presence of asbestos in European buildings.

In its response, EBC showcases the following:

  • A Realistic and applicable OEL for construction SMEs:  EBC stress that any revision of occupational exposure limit values should be realistic, as their application on the ground greatly depends on whether it is feasible for employers to measure and implement them. EBC considers that the existing Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) value of 0.1 fibres/cm3 is sufficient and should not be modified.
  • Better harmonization of measurement methods and tools: It should be noted that the measurement methods and tools chosen across different countries are not the same, do not focus on same indicators and test environments, and do not have the same performances. Therefore, taking examples from countries with very low limit values is premature, there is currently no harmonised methods for the said measurement. EBC call for a harmonisation of the measurement methods and relevant tools
  • The difficulty of measuring extremely low concentrations: There is evidence that the measurement of extremely low concentrations of asbestos can be a very challenging task for labs with existing technological equipment. Therefore, lowering the OEL would result in the need to either change the environment for the testing phase (e.g., increasing the volume of air sampled), developing new methods and tools for extremely low OEL, or considerably multiplying the observation time in the laboratory. All these scenarios would result in significant additional costs for all relevant actors
  • Need to focus more on preventive and accompanying measures: Increasing technical and financial support for training, awareness-raising, and exchange of best practices on asbestos removal for both employers and workers is a central element of this process. At the same time, we need to strengthen the technical and financial support for homeowners to assess the presence of asbestos in their dwellings in order to reduce the risks upfront and facilitate the removal. The development of specific treatment protocols on asbestos for disposal/removal operators of construction/demolition waste would facilitate this complex process, especially considering that asbestos is not recyclable. It is also essential to ensure the access of construction enterprises to an appropriate number of adapted waste facilities for asbestos at the regional/local level.

The Commission is planning to publish a legislative proposal in the autumn of 2022.

EBC will contribute to closely collaborate with FIEC on the dossier and contribute to the legislative process.