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Exposure to asbestos

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Asbestos is a dangerous product which can cause serious diseases. The exposure of workers to this product is monitored and harmonised at European level. The different degrees of exposure are adjusted in line with the development of scientific knowledge on the subject.

ACT

Council Directive 83/477/EEC of 19 September 1983 on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work (second individual Directive within the meaning of Article 8 of Directive 80/1107/EEC) [See amending acts].

SUMMARY

Directive 83/477/EEC and Directive 91/382/EEC

The Directives do not apply to sea or air transport.

"Asbestos" is taken to mean six fibrous silicates (actinolite, asbestos gruenerite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, and tremolite). The limit values pertaining to in-air concentrations are:

  • for chrysotile: 0.60 fibres per cm3 calculated or measured for an eight-hour reference period;
  • for all other forms of asbestos: 0.30 fibres per cm3 calculated or measured for an eight-hour reference period.

Any activity likely to entail risk of exposure to dust arising from asbestos or materials containing asbestos must be assessed in such a way as to determine the degree and nature of the workers' exposure.

These activities are to be notified by the employer to the responsible authority of the Member State. The notification must include at least a description of the types and quantities of asbestos used, the activities and processes involved, and the products manufactured. Workers or their representatives are entitled to see the documents concerned.

The application of asbestos by means of the spraying process and working procedures that involve the use of low-density (less than 1g/cm3) insulating or soundproofing materials are prohibited.

Exposure to asbestos is reduced by limiting its use as far as possible, keeping to a minimum the number of persons exposed, and taking adequate measures to maintain buildings and ensure that materials are properly stored, transported and labelled.

In order to ensure compliance with the limit values, asbestos-in-air concentrations are to be measured regularly.

If these values are exceeded, the reasons must be identified and appropriate measures to remedy the situation must be taken before work is resumed.

The places in which activities giving rise to exposure risks are carried out must be clearly marked and indicated by warning signs. They are to be out of bounds to smokers and workers other than those who, by reason of work or duties, are required to enter such areas. Areas are to be set aside where workers can eat and drink without risking being contaminated by asbestos dust. Workers are to be provided with appropriate working or protective clothing.

Workers and/or their representatives must receive adequate information on health risks; the existence of limit values; the need for monitoring of the atmosphere; hygiene requirements and specific precautions to be taken.

Each worker's state of health must be assessed, including a specific chest examination, prior to exposure to dust arising from asbestos or materials containing asbestos and subsequently at least once every three years for the duration of the exposure. The employer is required to keep a register indicating the nature and duration of the activity and the exposure to which the worker is subjected; both the worker concerned and doctors must have access to the information in the register.

A plan of work setting out the necessary health and safety measures is to be drawn up before the commencement of any demolition work or work involving removal of asbestos.

Member States must keep a register of cases of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

The employer will not be required to notify the authority, take atmospheric measurements, put up warning signs, carry out health assessment or inform workers if the assessment of the exposure risks shows that the asbestos-in-air concentration is as follows:

  • for chrysotile, lower than 0.20 fibres per cm3 for an eight-hour reference period or lower than a cumulative dose of 12.00 fibres over a three-month period,
  • for all other forms of asbestos, lower than 0.10 fibres per cm3 for an eight-hour reference period or lower than a cumulative dose of 6.00 fibres over a three-month period.

Directive 98/24/EC

Adapts the provisions of the above-mentioned Directives to Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers in the workplace. This Directive now applies to the exposure of workers to chemical agents

Directive 2003/18/EC

  • reduces the limit value for occupational exposure of workers to asbestos. It repeals the two limit values established by Directive 83/477, setting a single maximum limit value for airborne concentration of asbestos of 0.1 fibres per cm3 as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA);
  • abolishes the derogations applicable to the sea and air transport sectors;
  • prohibits activities exposing workers to asbestos fibres, with the exception of the treatment and disposal of products resulting from demolition and asbestos removal;
  • updates the practical recommendations on the clinical surveillance of exposed workers in the light of the latest medical expertise, with a view to the early detection of pathologies linked to asbestos.

REFERENCES

Act Date of entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 83/477/EEC

22.9.1983

1.1.1987

1.1.1990 in the case of asbestos-mining activities

OJ L 263 of 24.9.1983

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 91/382/EEC

4.7.1991

1.1.1993

1.1.1996 in the case of asbestos-mining activities

1.1.1999 for Greece

OJ L 206 of 29.7.1991

Directive 98/24/EC

25.5.1998

5.5.2001

OJ L 131 of 5.5.1998

Directive 2003/18/EC

15.4.2003

14.4.2006

OJ L 97 of 15.4.2003

Directive 2007/30/EC

28.6.2007

31.12.2007

OJ L 165 of 27.6.2007

RELATED ACTS

Directive 2009/148/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work (Text with EEA relevance).

Directive 2007/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2007 amending Council Directive 89/391/EEC, its individual Directives and Council Directives 83/477/EEC, 91/383/EEC, 92/29/EEC and 94/33/EC with a view to simplifying and rationalising the reports on practical implementation (Text with EEA relevance)
Member States must present a report every five years on the application of the Directive. The first report must cover the period from 2007 to 2012.

Directive 2004/37/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work (Sixth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Council Directive 89/391/EEC) [OJ L 158 of 30.04.2004; corrigendum OJ L 229 of 29.06.2004].
This Directive applies to asbestos. It includes provisions which are more favourable to health and safety in the workplace than those set out in Directive 83/477/EEC.

Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures, amending and repealing Directives 67/548/EEC and 1999/45/EC and amending Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 (Text with EEA relevance).

 
Last updated: 11.09.2009
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