Nice, France, February 10, 2010: This day saw the signing of what it is hoped will be an historic agreement between the Social Partners in the European woodworking industries in the form of a joint declaration on the REF-Wood Social Partner Project concerning formaldehyde emissions in the workplace.

The social partners concerned were CEI-Bois (the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries), the EPF (European Panel Federation) and the EFBWW union (European Federation of Building and Woodworkers.

Subject to ratification by the Executive Committee of EFBWW and the managing boards of the EPF and CEI-Bois, the declaration states that:

•    A method of measurement of workers’ exposure to formaldehyde had proved universally applicable and commercially available and would be recommended by the partners as an EU-standard method

•    That it is the strong conviction of the social partners that the EPF member companies are striving to reduce the exposure of workers to the “best of their possibilities”

•    The Social Partners agree that, when formaldehyde is handled and used properly and in accordance with existing governmental and industrial guidelines, standards and regulations and good working practices, workers are not likely to undergo lasting health effects

•    Given the concerns over potential health risks associated with exposure to formaldehyde, the social partners agree to stimulate all concerned companies to use the results of this project very actively, including the recommendation for an EU-wide applicable measurement method [for worker exposure].

The declaration went on to stress that consumers should be informed that “European wood products are manufactured taking due care of their [the social partners’] social responsibilities”.

The Social Project, funded by the European Commission, was inaugurated in May 2009 and the parties met several times during the ensuing months to discuss a way forward, culminating in the Final Conference in Nice, attended by some 60 delegates from the woodworking sector, mainly panel sector.

The parties have also agreed that, after to allowing companies in the sector sufficient time to implement new technologies and practices, a follow-up project will be established to identify the progress that has been achieved in reducing exposure to formaldehyde in the workplace and to provide the basis for finding a technically feasible limit for protecting all workers in the EU-based industry, especially in SMEs (small/medium sized enterprises) and micro-enterprises.

“CEI-Bois, EFBWW and EPF request the EC to support such a follow-up project and to include it in its work programme,concludes the Joint Declaration.

t was signed by Ladislaus Döry (EPF president and CEI-Bois vice chairman; Filip de Jaeger (CEI-Bois secretary general) and Sam Hägglund (EFBWW secretary general).