Towards a new EU strategy on health and safety at work

(Brussels, 20 August 2013)

On 20 August 2013 EPSU sent in its reply to an open consultation launched by the European Commission end of May 2013 to learn about stakeholders’ view on how to shape a future policy framework or strategy on occupational safety and health at EU level until the end of this decade. EPSU organises workers in the energy, water and waste sectors, health and social services, local and regional government and central administration in all European countries. Examples, illustrations and evidence to underpin our assessments of the past EU occupational safety and health strategy 2007-2012 and to develop our suggestions and requests as to issues of priority concern for the next years up to 2020 stem from basically all of them.

The file below is EPSU’s comprehensive reply (with text submitted into an online formular with some restrictions as to the length of answers highlighted in light grey).

EPSU’s response builds on prior work of the sectoral social partners for the sectors covered by EPSU and on some input received by EPSU affiliates. It also benefitted from EPSU’s reply of March 2012 to the consultation on the EC Green Paper on restructuring and anticipation of change stared in 2012 and still ongoing until end of September 2013. Joint responses or statements with the EU-level employers are currently being considered for the sectors local and regional government, central administration and hospitals/health care.

EPSU calls for an EU OSH Strategy 2014-2020, a request fully in line with the Lisbon Treaty and its values and objectives and with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, both supportive of policies to promote well-being at work, rights to health and safety, maximum weekly working hours, annual paid holiday, etc., as well as access to healthcare. A new EU OSH Strategy should set clear goals (including both quantitative and qualitative indicators to measure progress) and identify several priorities, with a view to coordinate national policies, also to be informed by EU cross-sectoral and sectoral social partners. It should set out a work programme including legislative improvements e.g. in matters relating to psychosocial factors and musculoskeletal disorders. In EPSU’s view there needs to be greater synergy between the EU OSH strategy and the work of social partners at sectoral level.

Main health and safety priorities to come under an EU-level strategy for EPSU are:

• The reduction and prevention of work-related injuries (including with medical sharps), work-related diseases (i.a. caused by musculoskeletal disorders or dermatological problems) and work-related psycho-social risks (e.g. stress or “burn-out as a consequence of increased up to excessive workload in particular for “front-line workers” and leading to sickness absence and ill-health retirement).

• All three aspects are also relevant in view of particular challenges an ageing workforce is facing and in order to promote effective retention and recruitment of qualified staff to EPSU’s sectors of activity. The new risks as identified by EU-OSHA for green jobs should be tackled, too; prevention is especially important here. There is finally also a need to take due account of the negative effects imposed restructuring has had and continues to have on working conditions – fewer staff to do the same or more work that increase the risks of ill-health and work accident; anxiety and stress.

• The use of high-quality risk assessments (which would include the consequences of restructuring and downsizing processes for those workers “surviving”).

• The strengthening of social dialogue and compliance with collective agreements as a key precondition for workers’ participation in OSH policies on the workplace-level which in turn contributes to design, implementation and evaluation of OSH measures based on risk assessment.

• The adequate resourcing for the effective implementation and coordination of national, sectoral and local OSH strategies, including of labour and/or health and safety inspectorates for more effective enforcement of OSH provisions.

You can below access the EC Communication “Evaluation of the European Strategy 2007-2012 on health and safety at work” setting out the main challenges in the area of occupational safety and health stemming from this assessment in section 6 (p. 42)

You can have a look into the detailed report on the evaluation of the European strategy on safety and health at work 2007-2012

You can also read a speech delivered by Commissioner László Andor on “European strategies for health and safety at work: the role of social partners” on 27 March 2013 in Brussels

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