For the first time, threshold values are to be regulated for all EU-countries / perforce the trade organizations accepted the limits set by the commission but hope to coordinate implementation in dialog
Natural stone branch facing adversity and hardship from Brussels: threshold values to limit emissions of crystalline silica. The quartz dust, or crystalline silica, is a waste product of the natural stone branch which ensues from the quarry to the final laying and can cause lung cancer or silicosis (dust disease).
Most recent development: representatives of business and commerce – with EUROROC speaking for natural stone – formulated and delivered their opinion to the European Parliament, in which they accepted the threshold values per se, but are seeking a dialog to coordinate implementation.
But one step at a time.
The EU-Commission’s suggested threshold-value: 0.1 mg/m³
May 2016 marked the launch of the EU-Commission’s suggested threshold-value for crystalline silica at 0.1 mg/m³ for all EU-countries.
Currently each country manages its own rules and values as can be seen in table (1) below. The Commission’s suggested limit is marked as a red line in the graph.
Suggested threshold values as agreed by the EU-Parliament: 0.05 mg/m³
When the Parliament was presented with the Commission’s agreed threshold-value, a much more stringent level was being discussed in the legislative body, namely 0.05 mg/m³ or half the limit suggested by the Commission.
Let us look back even further.
Dust exposure at the workplace has been a prominent topic of discussion for some time, which explains why the agreement reached in 2006 was so spectacular: trade organizations across Europe and representing a wide variety branches (ranging from plaster to fiberglass, from natural stone to open mining) had agreed a set of rules to improve the situation at work.
In self-imposed threshold-values, signed before the EU-Commissioner, the branches committed themselves to publish yearly reports by country.
The reports publish the results of local monitoring including comparative values of past periods and best-practice examples to make improvement more tangible.
The title of the agreement is cumbersome to say the least: „Agreement on Workers’ Health Protection Through the Good Handling and Use of Crystalline Silica and Products Containing it“. The participating trade organizations have closed ranks to found the European Network on Silica (NEPSI), of which EUROROC is a member.
Figuratively speaking all parties involved have gradually been steering in the same direction since 2006 without cutting off the air to breathe.
Opinions by the trade organizations.
Meanwhile the NEPSI-trade organizations have worked out their own opinion on suggestions by the Commission and the Parliament (2). To avoid more restrictive rules, the participating organizations volunteered to accept the 0.1-mg-limit which applies in the majority of European countries as demonstrated in the table.
But NEPSI is seeking implementations of the rule according to the old agreement: realization of limits as agreed by all participants in viable steps.
In some countries, agreeing the 0.05-mg-limit would mean that approximately one out of three natural stone producers would have to close shop immediately.
The European Parliament is scheduled to decide on the threshold-values most likely in the beginning of 2018.
Then it is up to the individual European Countries where national trade organizations may interject their opinion.
If the topic is economically insignificant in a particular country or are the trade organizations weak, the government is likely to wave the EU-motion through.
Finally, the opinion of each and every member country is presented to the Council of the European Union where a compromise must be worked out.
Already at this early stage, some countries are experiencing strong resistance. (pebe)
Documents for downloading:
(1) European Commission suggestion (in all European languages)
(2) NEPSI-Opinion as presented to the European-Parliament
Roadmap january 2017
European Network on Silica (NEPSI)
(15.01.2017, USA: 01.15.2017)