EPSU expert group discusses Occupational Safety and Health in HSS

EPSU OSH network meeting

(19 September 2023) The health and social services (HSS) expert group on occupational safety and health (OSH) met on 12 September for the second time since the establishment of the group. The group discussed recent developments on worker protection in the EU and beyond, including the campaign for a dedicated directive on psychosocial risk factors (PSR), an interactive risk assessment tool in healthcare, and the revisions of directives on Carcinogens and Mutagens and Reprotoxins (CMRD 5) and asbestos.

Kevin Flynn (Eurocadres) updated participants on the EndStress campaign, which aims to develop a dedicated PSR Directive. He highlighted that 88% of workers have faced workplace stress and 80% have identified at least one psychosocial risk factor in their workplaces. This concerning data highlighted the shortcomings of the existing 1989 framework directive, which broadly assigns responsibility to employers for worker health and safety. The dedicated directive should provide more robust protection for workers and address key elements, such as enhanced worker participation, clarified employer obligations, and comprehensive training to prevent PSR, all while safeguarding employees who raise concerns about PRS in the workplace.

Michaela Seifert (EU – OSHA) provided information on developing the Online Interactive Risk Assessments Tool (OiRA) in the healthcare sector. EPSU and HOSPEEM were invited by the Commission to prepare this tool as part of the current EU OSH Strategy 2021-2027. She explained that OiRA is a tool for managing occupational safety and health in many different sectors and consists of risk identification, action plan development, and documentation possibilities. The tool has already been implemented in agriculture and education. OiRA is developed on the EU level with the participation of the social partners and then adapted to national practices and specificities. In 2022, the OiRA tool accumulated more than 70,000 new assessments, which helped to make workplaces safer.

Tony Musu (ETUI) gave a presentation on the fifth revision of the CMRD. The European Parliament, in amendments to the proposed directive text on September 7, included the legal definition of Hazardous Medicinal Products (HMPS) in both the directive's main body and Annex, classifying them as category 1A or 1B carcinogens, mutagens, or reprotoxic substances. This is a significant victory for the Stop Cancer at Work campaign, led by EPSU, which aims to introduce HMPs in the text of the directive.

Improvements in protection for healthcare workers were secured in the revised Asbestos Directive following an agreement among the Commission, Council, and Parliament. Asbestos is still present in many buildings in the EU, causing problems for many public service workers, including firefighters. A new wave of victims of asbestos-related diseases is expected due to the scheduled new wave of renovations of buildings. The revised Asbestos Directive will cover all workers that are at risk, including both those who are actively exposed - such as firefighters or construction workers – or those who are passively exposed, such as healthcare workers.

Read the report from the first meeting here.