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Protection of workers exposed to asbestos

Activities related to the treatment and processing of asbestos can pose risks to health. Workers exposed to asbestos must be protected under the best possible conditions, by limits on exposure and by appropriate procedures.

ACT

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 (codified version) (Text with EEA relevance).

SUMMARY

The exposure of workers to asbestos dust or materials containing asbestos poses risks to their health. This Directive establishes protective and preventive rules intended to limit these risks.

The term asbestos applies to the following substances: asbestos actinolite, asbestos grunerite, asbestos anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, and asbestos tremolite.

Exposure to asbestos

This Directive prohibits:

  • the application of asbestos by means of the spraying process and all activities that involve using low-density (less than 1 g/cm3) insulating or soundproofing materials;
  • the extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos, including products containing asbestos.

However, the processing and disposal of products resulting from demolition and asbestos removal shall be permitted. The exposure of workers must be reduced to a minimum, with regard to:

  • the number of workers;
  • work processes, which must not produce dust, especially in the air;
  • premises and equipment, which must be cleaned and maintained regularly;
  • storage and transport, in suitable sealed packing;
  • the collection of waste, which must be removed quickly, labelled and processed in accordance with Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste.

Limit values for exposure to asbestos

Employers shall ensure that no worker is exposed to an airborne concentration of asbestos in excess of 0.1 fibres per cm³ as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).

Risk assessment

A risk assessment must be carried out before beginning an activity involving exposure to asbestos dust or to materials containing asbestos. This assessment shall be based on representative sampling of the worker’s personal exposure.

The measuring of asbestos in the air shall take account only of fibres with:

  • a length of more than 5 micrometres and a breadth of less than 3 micrometres;
  • a length/breadth ratio greater than 3:1.

Working procedure

Before the start of the work, the employer must inform its national authorities of:

  • the location of the worksite,
  • the type and quantity of asbestos,
  • the activities and processes involved,
  • the number of workers,
  • the duration of the work,
  • measures taken to limit exposure.

The place where the work is carried out must be accessible only to workers – it must be demarcated and signed. In addition, it must be a no smoking area.

Demolition or asbestos removal work shall take place according to a pre-established plan aimed at guaranteeing the removal of asbestos before demolition techniques are applied, and at reducing the risks to a minimum.

Workers shall receive training particularly as regards the properties of asbestos and its effects on health, and as regards emergency, decontamination and medical surveillance procedures.

Assessment of the state of health

Each worker’s state of health must be assessed before exposure to asbestos. In addition, an individual health record must be established in order to provide for protective or preventive measures. Medical surveillance may continue after the end of the work.

Every European Union country shall keep a register of recognised cases of diseases related to asbestos (for example, asbestosis and mesothelioma).

Context

This Directive repeals Directive 83/477/EEC with a view to clarifying its provisions.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 2009/148/EC

5.1.2010

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OL L 330 of 16.12.2009

Last updated: 05.05.2010
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