EESC urges buildings directive review to prevent asbestos exposure

Written by Martin Banks on 5 June 2019 in News
News

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has demanded a review of the EU’s energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD) so that it “improves the protection” of workers who may be at risk of asbestos exposure.

Photo Credit: Press Association


The Brussels-based EESC suggests that possible preventive action could include registration of any harmful substances in buildings that are “publicly accessible.”

Unspecified “incentives” for the use of sustainable building techniques and natural building materials is another EESC recommendation.

The European Commission could, says the EESC, also make the removal of harmful substances a “priority” when developing legislative proposals, such as plans for a “digital building logbook.”


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Aurel Laurentiu Plosceanu, who has drafted a report on the issue for the Committee, said, “New technologies and new work practices to protect the health and safety of workers and inhabitants of buildings are available and their use and implementation need to be promoted.”

“Every worker in the construction industry runs the potential risk of coming into contact with asbestos, but in many Member States training requirements and provisions are insufficient to adequately protect workers from the risks of asbestos.”

Plosceanu added, “Cancer is already the second leading cause of death in Europe. While we know that lifestyle - smoking, obesity, too much alcohol - contributes to the chances of developing cancer, but there is also the possibility of getting cancer from poisoned material that we are exposed to in our working or living environment."

“Asbestos is one of these materials. It continues to be the number one source of occupational cancer in the EU. This cannot be accepted any longer.”

“In many Member States training requirements and provisions are insufficient to adequately protect workers from the risks of asbestos” Aurel Laurentiu Plosceanu, EESC

The EESC, which is an “advisory” body and has no legislative powers, has demanded a review of the “transposition and practical implementation” of the directive so that it takes into account different occupation groups.

One of the main reasons for revising the EPBD was to reduce the impact of climate change but the EESC, made up of representatives from trade unions and industry, says its mandate should be extended to look at work-related health issues.

But, as regards future buildings in the EU, the Commission should “actively promote a life cycle approach” to building design and construction materials with a view to recyclability and end-of-life use, says the EESC report called “Working with Asbestos in Energy Renovation.”

Asbestos is still the number one source of occupational cancer in the EU. According to the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), asbestos claims approximately 88,000 lives in Europe annually, accounting for 55-85 percent of cases of lung cancer at work.

The ICOH says mortality rates will continue to increase until the late 2020s and 2030s and even work on bound asbestos can cause a significant release of harmful asbestos fibres.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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