EPSU discusses OSH achievements and future plans

HSS experts group OSH screen shot

(20 December 2022) On 13 December 2022, EPSU hosted a health and social services (HSS) expert group meeting on occupational safety and health (OSH). The purpose of the meeting was to talk about recent achievements in OSH and discuss future plans.

The first presentation was given by Zita Baronnet, EPSU, on the relation between breast cancer and night shift work. The recognition of breast cancer caused by night shift work as an occupational disease has become a priority in EPSU’s HSS work program as there were 355,457 new cases of breast cancer and 91,826 deaths caused by breast cancer in the EU in 2020, according to the European Cancer Information System. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified night shift work as “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)” in October 2007 and again in June 2019. In 2007, Denmark became the first European country to recognise breast cancer caused by night shift work as an occupational disease. It is still the only country in Europe to recognise breast cancer caused by night shift work as a work-related disease.

The next presenter was Tony Musu, Senior Researcher, ETUI who talked about the ETUI’s new list of hazardous medicinal products (HMPs). The upcoming publication of the European Commission’s guidance for the safe management of HMPs is in part due to the ETUI’s list on hazardous medicinal products (HMPs). The list was created to raise awareness of workplace exposure to HMPs as many workers are unknowingly exposed during production, transportation, usage and disposal stages. It is estimated that around 12.7 million workers are potentially exposed to HMPs in the EU, of which 7.3 million are nurses. It is a first of its kind list that completely fit the description of HMPs provided in the Carcinogenic, Mutagenic and Reprotoxic Substances Directive (CMRD).

It was followed by a presentation from Ralf Kleinschmidt, DG EMPL, European Commission about the upcoming guidance for the safe management of HMPs. The guidance was created in a mere 10 months and will be published at the end of December 2022. It will provide advice to employers on how they should properly carry out risk assessments and what training they should provide to properly prepare their workers to safely handle HMPs. It will also give recommendations to workers on how they should safely handle HMPs at the production, transportation, storage, preparation, administration, cleaning and disposal stages to limit their exposure. Kleinschmidt stated that workers at the transportation and disposal stages are particularly vulnerable as they are not given proper training on how to safely handle HMPs.

The final presentation was given by Kevin Flynn, Communications and Policy Officer, Eurocadres their Endstress campaign. The aim of the campaign is to create a dedicated Psychosocial Risks Directive as the only directive that talks about psychosocial risks is the 1989 Framework Directive on Safety and Health of Workers at Work. Since then, only two framework agreements have discussed psychosocial risks, namely the 2004 framework agreement on work-related stress and the 2007 framework agreement on harassment and violence at work. However, they are both non-legally binding because they are merely framework agreements not directives. A new Directive on Psychosocial Risks is essential as 88% of EU workers have experienced stress problems at work. National legislation on psychosocial risks varies greatly between Member States.