Asbestos: Commission presents plans for screening and removal in High-Level Construction Forum

On Tuesday 15 November, the European Commission held a dedicated Webinar on the screening, registration and removal of asbestos, in the context of the High-Level Construction Forum (HLCF). The webinar was organised following the publication of the EC Communication entitled  Working towards an asbestos-free future: a European approach to addressing the health risks of asbestos, as part of the Commission’s policy and legislative package to tackle asbestos in buildings.

Following the opening remarks by Ms Katharina Knapton-Vierlich, Head of Unit for Construction at DG GROW, a detailed presentation on the Commission’s Communication on working towards an asbestos-free future and on the EU initiative for screening and registration of asbestos in buildings was presented, noting the significant differences in the national approaches across Member-States and/or regions.

Besides the proposed revision of the Asbestos at Work Directive, the Commission works on updated guidelines to support Member States, employers and workers in implementing the revised Directive and will launch an awareness-raising campaign on the safe removal of asbestos.

Additionally, the Commission is preparing a legislative proposal on the screening and registration of asbestos in buildings, with Member States being asked to develop national strategies for the removal of asbestos. Also, a regulatory approach to introduce asbestos considerations on the planned digital building logbooks is foreseen.

To ensure safe disposal of asbestos and zero pollution, the Commission will also revise the EU Construction and Demolition Waste Management Protocol and the Guidelines for the waste audits before demolition and renovation works of buildings, while also launching a study to identify asbestos waste management practices and new treatment technologies.

An overview from the actions already taken at Member State level was then given, examining the cases of the Asbestos Removal Program in Poland and the Flemish initiative for the screening of buildings in Belgium. A panel discussion followed, with the views of the International Union of Property Owners (UIPI), the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW), the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM), and the Directorate of Housing, Urban Planning and Landscapes at the French Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion.

In her concluding remarks, Ms Katharina Knapton-Vierlich shared some elements on the next steps, including the start of works in 2023 towards a European framework for the screening of asbestos in existing buildings.