Lubin, 1 April 2022
ZPPM / 16S / IV / 2022
Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Proposal for a directive – Call for evidence: Ref. Ares(2022)1332881 – 22/02/2022
Title of the Initiative: Health & safety at work – protecting workers from asbestos exposure
The Polish Copper Employers’ Association position paper on consultation of The Directive 2009/148/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work.
Title of the Initiative: Health & safety at work – protecting workers from asbestos exposure – Ref. Ares(2022)1332881 – 22/02/2022 – Proposal for a EP and Council Directive
The Polish Copper Employers’ Association (former Employers’ Organization of Polish Copper) (Związek Pracodawców Polska Miedź) was established in 1996. We are the biggest, independent and not-for-profit regional employers’ organization whose goal is to represent and protect employers’ interests. Our organization unites 122 employers, employing over 38,000 employees. The founder of the Association is KGHM Polska Miedź S.A., our members are also private entities, especially from the small and medium-sized enterprise sector, as well as local government and municipal companies. For over 25 years, our Association has been monitoring and giving opinions on draft legal acts important for the economy, protecting the rights and representing the interests of employers and entrepreneurs. We declare our readiness to join the works on the update of the EU directive protecting employees against the risks related to exposure to chemicals (The Chemical Agents Directive 98/24/EC) – Health & safety at work – protecting workers from exposure to chemicals (lead and di-isocyanates).
The health and safety of our employees is the key and the highest priority for employers associated in the Polish Copper Employers’ Association.
Our organization and our member companies pay attention to the following issues.
Our leader and founder, KGHM Polska Miedź S.A. (KGHM) is one of the world’s leading companies in the mining and production of copper and silver. The company also produces other accompanying metals, which results from the properties of the exploited polymetallic deposit.
According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), asbestos is a very dangerous carcinogen. The current occupational exposure limit (OELV) for asbestos is 0.1 fibers / cm³ as an 8-hour time-weighted average. Based on the documents submitted for the impact assessment, the ECHA Risk Assessment Committee prepared an opinion on lowering the current OELV limit value for asbestos.
The direction of changes is most appropriate, bearing in mind that the management of asbestos use in buildings, as well as its safe removal, require full compliance with the principles of health and safety at work. This is linked to the EU’s plan to improve the thermal insulation of buildings and structures, with the aim of saving energy and making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050.
However, according to the goal outlined by ECHA, exposure reduction should always be limited as far as technically possible. Therefore, when determining a possible new exposure limits, the latest scientific developments should be taken into account and appropriate amendments should be made to the regulations, when the base should be the current technical and technological possibilities for their effective achievement.
Merely dismantling asbestos from buildings and depositing asbestos waste in landfills is not an effective long-term solution. This is a challenge that future generations will have to solve as asbestos fibers are practically not degraded over time. In order to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the environment, cost-effective methods of inerting asbestos-containing waste should first be developed to deactivate the asbestos fibers and transform them into materials that do not pose a threat to public health.
Our members have a very small number of asbestos housing sites. Annual measurements show the fiber count in cm³ ranging from less than 0.0025 to 0.0184. Considering the legal obligation to remove asbestos, its removal is planned by the end of 2032.
When new lead hygiene standards for asbestos are established, it is also very important to ensure sufficient time – transition periods – to allow primary source lead producers to make the necessary changes to the processes related to the management of exposure to lead in the workplace, organizational and technological changes.
President of the Board & CEO of The Polish Copper Employers’ Association
The position was prepared on the basis of expert opinions from member entities of the The Polish Copper Employers’ Association.