THE NETHERLANDS: Labour Inspectors audit asbestos removal firms

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Amiante dangerThe number of offences committed within the framework of asbestos removal activities has declined. But the Labour Inspectorate is not easing the pressure, especially with regard to company auditing.

In the Netherlands, asbestos removal must mandatorily be performed by a certified firm. But, based on inspections that they carried out in 2014, Labour Inspectors estimate that only 54% of the firms taking part in asbestos removal activities were certified. All the same, this represents a clear improvement, because in 2012 only 30% of firms were certified. Cooperation between the Labour Inspectorate and the sector players apparently accounts for this improvement.

Inspection of certified firms
All the certified firms are inspected once every two years on average. If offences are detected, however, they can be inspected several times each year. The labour inspectors can not only impose heavy fines, but also, in the event of recurrent offences, they can force the firm to cease its activity for several months – which has occurred on several occasions in recent years. Offenders are also likely to have their certification withdrawn. The Labour Inspectorate is extremely vigilant, because it has observed that some dishonest firms have established mechanisms enabling them to get around the sanctions and continue their activity via another legal entity, for example. According to the Labour Inspectorate, such practices “seriously damage the trust created by the certification scheme and detract from the sector’s image”.

Inspection of uncertified firms
The fines imposed on companies not certified for asbestos removal activities which endanger the health of their workers and nearby residents are substantial, and may be far more than €100,000. The Labour Inspectorate detects illegal practices increasingly efficiently via Internet offers of asbestos removal services, professional or not, or by being alerted by other players in charge of monitoring in the asbestos sector.
The Labour Inspectorate plans to step up its efforts to detect offending companies. The aim is not only to combat accidents at work and prevent serious risks for those involved in the work, but also to prevent any unfair competition. Asbestos removal will continue in the coming years, bearing in mind that, as of 1 January 2024, asbestos-contaminated roofs will be prohibited. Asbestos will therefore have to be removed from about 120 million square metres of roofing in a period of eight years.
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