Editor, UBM

January 23, 2017

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European Commission to improve EU health and safety

Approximately 160,000 Europeans die from illnesses related to their work every year. In response, the European Commission is taking action to promote Occupational Safety and Health in the EU, with the aim of better protecting workers against work-related cancer, and to help businesses comply with legislation.

Currently, EU legislation consists of a framework directive which sets the general scope of application, and 23 related directives which focus on specific areas of occupational health and safety, including sectors (e.g. construction), tasks (e.g. manual handling), or workers (e.g. pregnant or young workers).

These directives set out minimum requirements and principles for EU Member States – meaning that Members can adopt stricter rules for protection of workers (like the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974), but that there is a minimum level of protection ensured in the EU.

More results, less paperwork

The recent action the European Commission is taking is to modernise EU OSH legislation and policy, with the aim of helping SMEs and micro-enterprises to deal with less paperwork, and allow them to focus more on results.

These proposed measures have come from a broad evaluation of the OSH framework, which showed that while EU OSH legislation is fit for purpose, there were key areas for improvement in OSH policy and legal framework, including:

  • stepping up the fight against occupational cancer, which remains the first cause of work-related deaths in the EU;
  • by helping businesses, in particular micro-enterprises and SMEs, to comply with rules on health and safety at work, and to address issues of growing concern such as psychosocial risks, musculoskeletal disorders and ageing;
  • by removing or updating outdated rules and improving enforcement on the ground, in cooperation with Member States, social partners, and stakeholders.


Three priorities

The Commission will focus on three priorities:

  • Occupational cancer: proposed changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive; establishing or reviewing exposure limit values for further cancer-causing chemicals in the workplace.
  • Help SMEs comply with OSH rules: publishing practical guidelines and tools to help businesses apply health and safety rules.
  • A programme for removing or updating outdated provisions in some OSH Directives – to help clarify rules and reduce administrative burdens for businesses and enforcement agencies.

Clear and up-to-date

The European Commission hopes that these changes will allow for clear, up-to-date rules at an EU and national level.

The European Commission said: “Investment in OSH makes a lot of sense. It improves people’s lives by preventing work-related illness and accidents and also has a tangible positive effect on EU economies.

“It leads to improved business productivity and performance. At macroeconomic level, it contributes to national competitiveness. Different studies prove that the employer will have a return in double of every euro spent on OSH.”

The European Commission hopes that businesses – especially small ones – will benefit from rules that are clearer and easier to follow.

For more information, visit the European Commission website.





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