Legislative proposal on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work

In “An Economy that Works for People”

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In the letter of intent accompanying her State of the Union address to the European Parliament on 15 September 2021, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had announced a number of initiatives to be proposed by the Commission. Under the third priority – 'an economy that works for people' – the Commission stated its intention to put forward a legislative proposal on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure at work. According to the Commission work programme for 2022, published on 19 October 2021, the initiative would be put forward in the third quarter of 2022. It aims to update the existing binding occupational exposure limit value for asbestos in order to take into account the most recent scientific development and technical progress.

The Commission had already proposed to update Directive 2009/148/EC on Asbestos at Work in the February 2021 'Europe's Beating Cancer' plan. In its EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027, adopted in June 2021, it noted that, in the light of the latest scientific evidence, the exposure limit value for asbestos needed to be lowered.

On 14 September 2022, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in her Letter of Intent to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and to Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala a number of proposals for the year ahead that stem from the Conference on the future of Europe conclusions. One of them is a new initiative on the screening and registration of asbestos in buildings. No further details were revealed (see separate fiche). This initiative was then mentioned in the Commission work programme for 2023 published on 18 October 2022.

On 20 October 2021, the European Parliament adopted a legislative own-initiative report (INL) on protecting workers from asbestos. This legislative proposal from the Commission on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work is a follow-up and in line with Parliament's resolution , under Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (see separate fiche).

The proposal for a directive revising the 2009 directive (2009/148/EC) on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work was put forward by the Commission on 28 September 2022. The Commission adopted on the same day a communication on working towards an asbestos-free future. The proposal includes a reduction in the exposure limit of asbestos at work to 10 times lower than the current value, based on the latest scientific and technological developments. Once adopted, Member States will have two years to transpose the Directive into national law. The proposal is an important step in Commission's work to build a strong European health Union and in its fight against cancer. In the EU, 78% of occupational cancers recognised in the Member States are related to asbestos. Cancer prevention by reducing exposure levels for workers and providing training and guidance to employers is essential. Reducing exposure to carcinogenic substance such as asbestos is also part of the Commission 's Zero Pollution Action Plan. 

At the EMPL committee meeting on 25 October 2022, Members welcomed Nicolas Schmit (Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights) to present the Commission proposal on amending the Asbestos at Work 2009 Directive.

 

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Author: Laurence Amand-Eeckhout, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament pages on Social Europe and EU health policy.

    As of 20/11/2022.