Follow-up report: Forum Asbest 2023
In November, representatives of the asbestos industry met again at Haus der Technik in Essen. At the 32nd Forum on Asbestos and Other Hazardous Substances in Technical Installations and Buildings, CRB was of course not to be missed. We were there with our information stand, exchanging ideas with other experts, and listening to the exciting presentations. The topics covered included current issues and developments in Switzerland and Germany, asbestos in building rubble, fire dampers containing asbestos, the updated version of the Hazardous Substances Ordinance, and news from the VDI 6202 series of standards. Here is a summary of some of the main points of the conference:
The asbestos situation in Switzerland
In 2023, FACH Guideline 2955, which regulates visual inspections and indoor air measurements after asbestos removal, will come into force in Switzerland. In addition, the FCOS Guideline 6503 is being revised and is due to be presented towards the end of 2023. This is the Swiss counterpart to the German TRGS 519 and will place new requirements on asbestos removal companies.
In 2022, a covert sample shipment/interlaboratory test was again carried out by SUVA. Covert proficiency tests are generally better than the usual proficiency tests at showing which processes in the laboratory need improvement. Last year, the focus was on low contents of less than 0.1 to 0.01% by mass and samples with varying degrees of amphibole best fibers. In this round, the overall quality of the laboratory work tested appears to have improved, although it is still unclear whether this trend will be sustained or not.
Current asbestos issues and developments in Germany and Europe
At least in recent times, the development of asbestos-related deaths has shown an encouraging trend, even if the number remains at a worryingly high level. There was a slight decrease in asbestos-related deaths from 1,646 in 2021 to 1,345 in 2022. However, it will only become clear over the next few years whether this is a real trend reversal.
The EU wants to better protect employees from asbestos and play a pioneering role in the fight against the harmful substance. For example, people with asbestos-related diseases are to be better supported. In addition, the current limit values for asbestos exposure in the workplace are to be lowered and awareness-raising campaigns for safe asbestos removal are to be launched. The introduction of digital building logbooks, in which conversion, renovation, and other activities on buildings are centrally documented, is also being discussed.
New developments in hazardous substances legislation
The long overdue and still unpublished new version of the Hazardous Substances Ordinance was also a topic at the Forum Asbest. A draft bill was published on March 3, 2023, but the government draft has not yet been adopted.
Key points of the future asbestos ordinance are:
- Cooperation and information obligations for the originator of activities
- Prohibitions in accordance with the restrictions of the REACH Regulation
- Exemptions for demolition, remediation, and maintenance work
- Risk-related regulations on protective measures, authorization, and registration as well as task- and risk-related qualification requirements
TRGS 519 is also being comprehensively revised. Among other things, the protective measures, which were previously based on the form of binding of the asbestos products and the type of activity (demolition, renovation or maintenance), will probably be risk-related protective measures in the future version. The obligation to cooperate and provide information will also be specified in the future TRGS 519.
Changes in fiber measurement and diagnostics
Soon, artificial intelligence and machine learning of neural networks will play an important role in measurement technology. The focus will be on device- and manufacturer-independent solutions that can be used for as many applications as possible. The Fibre Detect software from the BAUA's Materials and Particulate Pollutants specialist group is expected to form the technical basis for the planned Asbestos Detect software. This is a manually trained neural network.
Geogenic asbestos was also reported on at the Forum Asbest. These non-technically added asbestos usually enters the environment with the aggregates, as a kind of free rider. Questions that urgently need to be clarified are, for example:
- What are the consequences of the positive detection of geogenic asbestos fibers?
- What health and safety regulations apply in connection with these asbestos particles?
- What exactly makes asbestos fibers so dangerous?
Handling asbestos: qualification of personnel
In August 2022, work began on the draft of the guideline "VDI 6202 Sheet 20.1 Qualification of personnel - asbestos: exploration, remediation, disposal". The first print was published in September 2023 with a deadline for objections of November 30, 2023.
The planned guideline is primarily intended to serve the asbestos-related qualification of pollutant experts in accordance with VDI 6202 Sheet 1 Sections 6.1 and 6.3.4. It specifies the requirements and training content for obtaining the qualification "VDI expert for asbestos in structural and technical installations". In doing so, it was taken into account that individual course contents were already taught as part of the qualification in accordance with TRGS 519, TRGS 524, and DGUV Rule 101-004.
The certificate "VDI expert for asbestos in structural and technical installations" is valid for three years. Certified persons fulfill the requirements for a competent person according to LAGA M23 in the new version of May 2023.
Conclusion on the 32nd Forum Asbest
The Forum Asbest was once again an exciting and informative event for us. Even though there were slightly fewer new developments this year, it was worth attending just for personal contact and exchange with other experts.
In the detailed blog entry by our colleague Dr. Gunnar Ries, you can gain further and deeper insights into the topics presented at the Forum Asbest – for example on the amendment to LAGA M 23, on VDI 6202 Sheet 3.1 asbestos-containing fire dampers, on the RAL quality mark "Pollutant remediation of existing buildings and technical installations" and on digital building pollutant recording: https://scilogs.spektrum.de/mente-et-malleo/forum-asbest-und-andere-gebaeudeschadstoffe-in-technischen-anlagen-und-bauwerken/