Asbestos: EBC meets MEP Villumsen to discuss asbestos at work and SMEs

Last week, on 25 January, EBC engaged in an open and constructive exchange with MEP Nikolaj Villumsen (The Left, Denmark), currently Shadow rapporteur on the revision of Directive 2009/148/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work in the Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) committee of the European Parliament. MEP Villumsen was also the rapporteur of the European Parliament’s an own-initiative report on the issue back in 2021.

This meeting came timely, as the Rapporteur on the file MEP Trillet-Lenoir (Renew, France), published recently her draft report. This report, among other things, retains the OELV of 0.01 fibres/cm3 proposed by the Commission, with a review clause after 5 years to assess if the limit value should be lowered; pushes for a shorter transition period to electron microscopy technology, instead of 7 years proposed by the Council, to 3 years; contains additional elements on staff training to make efficient the switch towards new equipment, as well as on certification and permitting of asbestos-removal organisations and activities, along with a pre-activity diagnosis when there are doubts on the presence of asbestos.

In the meeting with MEP Villumsen, EBC insisted on the commitment of construction SMEs to optimal health and safety conditions for construction workers and the need for strong accompanying and financial measures for SMEs in the context of an applicable EU-wide occupational exposure limit value to asbestos.

EBC in this sense saluted the rapid alignment between the European Commission’s proposal, the Council’s general approach and MEP Trillet-Lenoir’s report considering that a stricter limit value than 0.01 fibres/cm3 is not needed. Indeed, EBC explained the complexity and heavy financial costs that come with the adaption to stricter rules deriving from unrealistic and extremely low exposure limit values, notably in terms of equipment for SMEs, laboratories, and inspectors. Additionally, EBC mentioned the need for a reasonable transition period and solid financial and technical support from Member states to implement reforms, notably in the field of providing quality training to the construction workforce active in asbestos removal. Eventually, EBC mentioned the risks of mandatory burdensome certification schemes for asbestos-removal, which could prove counterproductive and create an unlevel playing field for SMEs.

MEP Villumsen noted the importance of state-of-the-art protection of workers from asbestos risks thanks to an ambitious legislation, that pushes notably for a better uptake of the safest innovation available on the market and a streamlined assessment methodology across all Members States. He shared the concern on the need to improve the training schemes in construction, and to make use of EU funds to support Member states in their switch towards new equipment acquisition, reinforced inspections, and support schemes for asbestos-removal SMEs.

EBC will continue to closely monitor this crucial legislative dossier and engage with relevant stakeholders, sectoral and SME partners, as well as the European Parliament and Council.

To read EBC’s position paper on To read EBC input to the European Commission feedback consultation on Health & safety at work – protecting workers from asbestos exposure click here.