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EU Strategy on Health and Safety at work 2007-2012

Brussels, 21 February. The European Commission has unveiled its Community Strategy for health and safety at work for the period 2007-2012, the main objective of which is to reduce the incidence rate of accidents at work (by 25%) and occupational illnesses.

The new strategy builds upon the evaluation of the previous Community strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006 and on European legislations on the matter.

It is worth noting that the European Union has legislative competence on health and safety at the work place (based on article 137 of the EU Treaty).

According to the Commission's strategy, fatal accidents from 2002 to 2004 have dropped by 17% and the rate of workplace accidents leading to absences of more than three days has fallen by 20%. However progress remains uneven across different countries and sectors: some categories of workers are still overexposed (eg young workers, migrant and older workers), certain types of companies are more vulnerable (eg SMEs), certain sectors are particularly dangerous.

Proposed actions

In order to achieve a 25% overall reduction of occupational accidents and diseases in the EU, the European Commission has identified the following series of actions at European and national level:

Improving and simplifying existing legislation and enhancing its implementation in practice through non-binding instruments such as exchange of good practices, awareness-raising campaigns and better information and training.

Defining and implementing national strategies adjusted to the specific context of each Member State. These strategies should target the sectors and companies most affected and fix national targets for reducing occupational accidents and illness.

Mainstreaming of health and safety at work in other national and European policy areas (education, public health, research) and finding new synergies.

Better identifying and assessing potential new risks through more research, exchange of knowledge and practical application of results.

More specifically, the Strategy calls upon Member States to improve the preventive effectiveness of health surveillance. They point out that the health care system should play a leading role of the matter, as well as healthcare professionals.

It should be noted that although mental health is strongly emphasised in the Strategy, alcohol at the workplace and the alcohol strategy are not mentioned. However the communication acknowledges the emergence of new risk factors, such as addictions and considers that these changes mean that a better understanding of the problem must be acquired by conducting specialized research in order to identify effective prevention measures. The research agenda will also be used to identify new risks. Among others, the research priorities include psychological issues and exposure to chemicals.

Linkages with other health-specific initiatives:

The European Commission Strategy will also take into account the results of the consultation on the Green paper on smoke-free environments, as well as the results of the consultation on Mental Health.

In its response to the Green paper on mental health, EPHA called upon the European Commission to mainstream mental health and well-being into other policy areas, especially in policies directly impacting on the work place.

The European Social Fund will also play an important role in health and safety at the work place.

The European Agency for Health and Safety (OSHA) will be requested to review whether health and safety aspects are incorporated into Member States' vocational and occupational training policies. They will also disseminate information to support the development of awareness raising campaigns.

In addition, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions will be commissioned to assess the effectiveness of these campaigns.

Stage in the procedure:

The Communication has now been sent to the European Parliament and the Council. In the Parliament it will be the Employment and Social Affairs who will be the responsible Committee and the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and Industry, Research and Energy will issue an opinion.


Community Strategy for health and safety at work 2007-2012:

Community Strategy on Health and safety at work 2002-2006

European Parliament Legislative Observatory: