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The situation in France
The scourge of asbestos is still alive and well in France, with 10 deaths a day and a predicted 100,000 more deaths by 2025.
Trials for criminal negligence on the part of employers are being won against large companies and also against the French State. On 11 May, the Court of Cassation recognised the damage caused to asbestos workers by anxiety.
There have been regular demonstrations involving trade unions and asbestos victims’ associations. There is a risk of a climb-down on the level of early retirement payments; we are calling for at least the equivalent of the minimum wage.
Progress also needs to be made on early retirement for specific professions, including electricians and bricklayers (currently the scheme only applies to staff at specific sites, including factories, shipbuilding yards and premises owned by the national rail company SNCF). Consequently, construction workers are excluded since they have worked at multiple sites.
Asbestos-related inquiries used to be overseen by an examining magistrate. The removal of this office will make it difficult to establish employer liability.
However, it should be noted that there has been a step forward regarding training for asbestos removal: this will be increased from two to five days for asbestos-removal workers and from two to 10 days for supervisory staff.
There remain some negative points: inaccurate risk assessment during demolition works (in 80% of cases) and the fact that over half of asbestos-removal worksites do not observe health and safety rules, with all the consequences for workers that this entails.
Rémi Clavreul.


 
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