Directive 2009/148/EC of 30 November 2009 on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work replaced Directive 83/477/EEC and its subsequent amendments. The Directive lays down exposure limits and specific requirements with regard to safe work practices, including for maintenance and asbestos removal work, training of workers and health surveillance.
Combating occupational cancer remains a high priority in OSH. Therefore, a further reduction of workers' exposure to asbestos is a key priority of the EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027. In September 2022, the EU Commission published a proposal for a directive amending Directive 2009/148/EC (COM(2022)489) lowering the binding occupational exposure limit (OEL) for asbestos fibres from 0.1 fibres per cm3 to 0.01 fibres per cm3.
The Directive aims to protect workers health from risk of asbestos exposure, lays down limit values and specific requirements. It does not prevent Member States from applying laws which ensure greater protection for workers.
The definition of "asbestos" includes six fibrous silicates.
This Directive applies to activities in which workers are or may be exposed to dust arising from asbestos or materials containing asbestos in the course of their work. If any activity is likely to involve such risk of exposure, a risk assessment must be carried out including consultation with the workers. The risk assessment has to determine the nature and degree of the workers' exposure to dust arising from asbestos or materials containing asbestos and it must be revised if circumstances change significantly. If the exposure of the worker is sporadic and of low intensity with exposure limit not exceeded, the activity need not to be notified, health assessment of workers and clinical surveillance are not obligatory and workers need not be registered.
Activities with exposure to asbestos dust are to be notified by the employer to the responsible authority of the Member State, and re-submitted if a change in working conditions result in higher asbestos exposure. The minimum content of such notification is set. Workers or their representatives are entitled to see the notification.
The Directive prohibits activities in which workers are exposed to asbestos fibers in the context of the extraction of asbestos, the manufacture and processing of asbestos products or the manufacture and processing of products to which asbestos has been intentionally added. The treatment and disposal of materials that arise during demolition and asbestos removal work are excluded from this prohibition.
Exposure to asbestos during demolition and asbestos removal must be reduced to a minimum, including: minimising the number of persons exposed, prioritising dust-free work processes, cleaning buildings and ensuring that materials are properly stored, transported and labelled.
In order to ensure compliance with the limit values, qualified personnel shall regularly measure asbestos-in-air concentrations, in an appropriate way.
The single maximum limit value for airborne concentration of asbestos is 0.1 fibres per cm3 as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) (remark: the proposal for a directive amending Directive 2009/148/EC (COM(2022)489) includes a limit value of 0.01 fibres per cm3).
If the limit value is exceeded, the reasons must be identified and appropriate measures taken to remedy the situation. Work may not continue before measures are taken. Effectiveness of measures shall be verified. In case limit values cannot be observed by other means, employers shall provide proper protective equipment. The use of these equipments may not be permanent and appropiate break periods shall be set.
Before beginning demolition or maintenance work, employers shall take all necessary steps to identify presumed asbestos-containing materials. This may include obtaining information from the owners of the premises.
If it is foreseeable that limit values cannot be kept by technical measures, following consultation with workers, the employer shall ensure protection, including: providing proper personal protective equipment, putting up warning signs and preventing the spread of asbestos dust.
A plan of work, specifying health and safety measures shall be drawn up before start of work. Competent authorities have a right to require detailed information.
Employers shall provide appropriate training for workers on:
- properties of asbestos and health effects;
- products/materials that may contain asbestos;
- operations that could result in asbestos exposure and the importance of preventive controls;
- safe work practices, controls and protective equipment;
- the appropriate role, choice, selection, limitations and proper use of respiratory equipment;
- emergency procedures;
- decontamination procedures;
- waste disposal;
- medical examination requirements.
Asbestos removal/demolition can be done by firms that have provided evidence of their ability.
Workplaces with exposure risks shall be demarcated and indicated by warning sign. Access shall be forbidden to others than those who by reason of their work or duties are required to enter. Smoking shall be prohibited. Areas are to be set aside where workers can eat and drink without any risk of asbestos contamination. Working/protective clothing/equipments shall stay at the at the place of work, always separated from street clothes, and be cleaned/maintained accordingly at no cost to the workers.
Employer shall inform workers on every aspects of work in asbestos exposures (risks, binding limit value, obligatory atmosphere monitoring, hygiene requirements and specific precautions). If the limit value is exceeded, workers concerned shall be informed and consulted.
Each worker's state of health must be assessed, including a specific chest examination, prior to the exposure to asbestos, and subsequently at least once every three years during exposure. Physician shall inform worker if ongoing surveillance might be recommended even after the exposure terminated.
Employers must keep a register indicating the nature and duration of the activity and the exposure. Worker and physician shall have access to information concerned. Data shall be kept for 40 years and transferred to the authority concerned if the firm ceased to exist.
Member States must keep a register of cases of asbestosis and mesothelioma.
ANNEX I Practical recommendations for the clinical assessment of workers
ANNEX II Repealed Directive with list of its successive amendments & List of time limits for transposition into national law
ANNEX III Correlation Table
- Evaluation of the Practical Implementation of the EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Directives in EU Member States - Directive on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work (2017)
- Impact assessment: Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2009/148/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos art work (Commission staf working document, 2022)
- European Chemicals Agency, Annex 1 in support of the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) for evaluation of limit values for asbestos at the workplace, ECHA/RAC/ A77-O-0000006981-66-01/F (2021)
- EU Commission, Directorate-General for Employment Social Affairs and Inclusion, Study on collecting information on substances with the view to analyse health, socio-economic and environmental impacts in connection with possible amendments of Directive 98/24/EC (Chemical Agents) and Directive 2009/148/EC (Asbestos), Final report for asbestos (2021)