Latest update: 04/12/2023

Directive 2009/148/EC - exposure to asbestos at work

The Directive aims to prevent and protect workers from risks to their health arising from occupational exposure to asbestos.

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. On 30 November 2023, amending Directive 2023/2668/EU was published, 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.

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 results 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 fibres 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 binding occupational exposure limit (OEL) for airborne concentration of asbestos is 0.01 fibres per cm3 as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA). The OEL was lowered from 0.1 to 0.01 fibres per cm3 by amending Directive 2023/2668/EU. Member States are required to enforce this lower exposure limit starting from 21/12/2025. Furthermore, by 21/12/2029, the OEL must be further reduced. The OEL depends on the fibre counting method used in a particular Member State: either 0.002 fibres per cm3 when counting fibres with a breadth between 0.2 and 3 micrometres, or 0.01 fibres per cm3 when counting fibres with a breadth smaller than 0.2 micrometres.

Amending Directive 2023/2668/EU also introduced a more sensitive method for measuring asbestos fibres. Analytical methods based on electron microscopy must be used instead of optical microscopy (phase-contrast microscopy (PCM)). Electron microscopy allows for the counting of thinner fibres and provides more accurate results. In order to allow sufficient time to comply with these new requirements relating to the measurement of asbestos fibres, the Directive provides for a transitional period until 21/12/2029.

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 equipment may not be permanent and appropriate 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, from other employers and from other sources, including relevant registers. If such information is not available, the employer shall ensure an examination, by a qualified operator in accordance with national law and practice.
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. The content, duration and frequency of the training are specified in annex 1a of the Directive. Undertakings carrying out demolition or asbestos removal work shall obtain a permit from the competent authority. To this end, the competent authority must at least have proof that the workers have completed the training in accordance with Annex 1a.  

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 aspect 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 Ia Minimum requirements for training
ANNEX II Repealed Directive with list of its successive amendments & List of time limits for transposition into national law
ANNEX III Correlation Table

Member States have to comply with the 2023 amendments (Directive 2023/2668/EU) by 21 December 2025. Transitional measures (graded lowering of the limit values) apply to a further lowering of the limit value and the introduction of electron microscopy method for measuring asbestos fibres. 

Read the full text of Directive 2009/148/EC

Read the full text of amending Directive 2023/2668/EU

National laws implementing this Directive

Further information