05/04/2006

Millions of workers' health to be protected by Europe's first multisector agreement

More than 2 million workers in many different sectors across Europe will be
covered by the first European multisector agreement to be signed today. It will
protect workers exposed to crystalline silica dust, which can lead to
silicosis, a potentially fatal lung condition. Silicosis is also linked to
other dangerous lung conditions, such as emphysema and lung cancer. Today's
agreement aims to reduce workers' exposure to crystalline silica dust through
good practice in the workplace. It will be signed by the social partners
(trades unions and employers' representatives) in the presence of EU
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Vladimír
Spidla.

Crystalline silica is a mineral which accounts for around 12% of the Earth's
crust and is widely used in activities such as blasting, bagging and mixing
materials, grinding and spray glazing. Inhaling respirable crystalline silica
can lead to silicosis. Workers in most sectors involved in use of silica
crystalline will be covered by today's agreement. These include aggregates,
extractive industries, cement, foundries, glass industry, ceramic industry,
industrial minerals, mineral wool, natural stone industry, mortar, pre-cast
concrete and metalliferous minerals. Ancillary activities related to these
sectors, such as handling of materials, storage and transport are also covered
by the agreement.

'This is the first time an agreement covering several sectors has been
negotiated by the social partners through their own procedures. I would like to
congratulate them on such a worthy agreement. It will protect workers in many
sectors and help them benefit from better practices, making a real difference
to their working conditions,' Commissioner Spidla said.

Some 13 European employers' organisations will join the EMCEF (European Mine,
Chemical and Energy Workers' Federation) and EMF (European Metalworkers'
Federation), IMA Europe (European Industrial Minerals Association), Euromines
(European Association of Mining Industries) to sign the agreement.

According to the agreement, 'the employers and employees and the workers'
representatives will jointly make their best endeavours to implement the good
practices at site level in as far as applicable'. This 'good practice' list
will be subject to a permanent adaptation and updating procedure.

A monitoring committee with equal numbers of employee and employer
representatives will settle questions on the application and interpretation of
the agreement.

It will also write a sector-by-sector report on the application of the text
which will be forwarded to their members, the European Commission and the
national authorities responsible for workers' safety.

Six months after being signed, the agreement will come into force for four
years and will then be renewed automatically for consecutive two-year periods.
If, in future, EU legislation in relation to silica crystalline were proposed,
the signatories of the agreement would meet to consider the consequences for
the agreement.

More information


AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work