ANSES compiles available data to help in identifying professions that have the highest risk of exposure to asbestos

30 May 2011

As part of the revision of the early retirement programme for persons having worked with asbestos (CAATA), ANSES has been requested to gather available scientific and technical data on occupational exposure to asbestos. The aim was to identify occupations with a high level of exposure to asbestos, and those for which exposure leads to the development of occupational diseases.
This study identified various occupations in the asbestos manufacturing and thermal transformation sectors. The report also found a risk of exposure for workers in the building and civil engineering sectors, but exposure levels were found to vary considerably.

The study was undertaken in the following context: in 1999, the French authorities set up a specific early retirement programme for workers in the asbestos sector further to the health crisis surrounding exposure of workers to asbestos.
This programme is applicable both to individual workers suffering from occupational diseases related to asbestos and, more generally, to workers who were employed in establishments in which the activities performed were considered by the legislator to involve the highest risk of exposure to this substance.
Concerning the second scenario, actual application of the programme raises significant problems given that it is a collective programme made accessible to all staff employed in establishments registered on the inter-ministerial lists. As a result, the programme is not socially equitable as it may benefit workers who had a low level of exposure or no exposure, while others who were highly exposed do not benefit because they were exposed when working in an establishment that was not registered.

Revision of the CAATA programme is underway and a change in the scope of application appears likely, by combining a list of establishments carrying out high-risk activities with a list of particularly high-risk occupations.
To this end, the Agency examined the available national and international scientific literature and the main databases in this field. In addition, a survey was conducted in six European countries (Norway, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Finland and Germany) in order to collect information on regulations, applicable medical follow-up procedures, risk occupations and sectors, and the particulars of the compensation programmes for workers exposed to asbestos.
On the basis of the available data from expert and research bodies, ANSES produced a report which was submitted for critical appraisal to independent professionals with recognised expertise in the evaluation of occupations exposed to asbestos.

Through the work carried out by ANSES, a coherent and comprehensive set of information has been produced, highlighting the occupations and sectors of activity considered to have the highest risk of exposure to asbestos. However, to date, there is no database available providing a definitive and exhaustive list of the highest risk occupations applicable to all situations. Each database has its own characteristics and limitations. Nonetheless, examination of these databases has made it possible to identify major issues to be taken into account when establishing a fair compensation system (specific features of different occupations, tracing career paths, unusual occupations, etc.).

Find out more

- ANSES report (in french): “Scientific and technical summary on occupational exposure to asbestos - Contribution to the revision of the early retirement programme for workers exposed to asbestos”