Awareness about health and safety at work is key to the success of pension reforms

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AGE has issued a statement on the new EU Framework Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020 and submitted it to the stakeholder consultation on this document at the Committee of the Regions on 10 November 2014. AGE stressed that the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (OSHA) needs to have sufficient resources to raise awareness about health and safety issues, including on psycho-social health problems. As pension reforms are raising retirement ages across the EU, occupational health and safety is important to allow older workers to effectively work longer.

CoR point of view: administrative simplification is good, but provide more guidance for local authorities

The consultation on the new Framework Strategy is carried out by the rapporteur for the Committee of the Regions, Mauro D’Attis. He presented the Committee’s point of view, namely that the Committee welcomes administrative simplification promoted by the new framework and the focus on new risks and diseases. However, in he said that the role of local and regional authorities is not clearly defined in the strategy, and that the Committee of the Regions should come up with suggestions on this.

ETUC: do not create two systems for occupational health and safety, consider new risks

The European Trade Union Confederation commented on the Strategy, highlighting it is not up to the ambition of ETUC. The document is less concrete than the last Framework Strategy. The Strategy should be used to fix minimum standards across Europe, but highlight that the main driver for occupational health and safety stays social dialogue on national level. For the trade unions, OSHA should have a role to bring together knowledge about new dynamics. For instance, ETUC considers that standards relating to carcinogene substances or substances with an impact on reproductive health have to be updated, as they are based on the scientific knowledge from 30 years ago. There should also be more support to small and medium-sized enterprises to comply with occupational safety and health (OSH) regulations, rather than creating different standards for bigger and for smaller companies.

Employers: invest into education and collect minimum standards and methods

An Italian employer’s organisation intervened, stating support for ETUC’s approach not to call for a punitive European agency that would directly inspect labour conditions, but rather to adopt an educational approach, bringing together minimum standards and methodologies to better meet OSH standards. When looking at workplaces, more attention needs to be paid to level of risk at one workplace, not to the size of the company. There is a European Parliament resolution on effective labour inspections that has a good approach. There is a need to create a safety culture at work, and this does not limit itself to labour inspections: it starts in schools, by providing guidance and collecting full data on accidents and work-related diseases.

OSHA: more research funding needed, tools for risk assessments developed

The European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (OSHA) presented its work to the audience. The Agency was focussing on developing tools for conducting risk assessments, especially geared towards small and medium-sized enterprises. For example, OSHA created a smartphone application to conduct risk assessments. New tools on psycho-social risks are in development. The Agency explained there is evidence that companies that conduct risk assessments have much lower rates of work accidents and diseases, impacting positively on their productivity and worker’s well-being. OSHA called for more research funding to look into new developments and risks. Also, OSHA currently conducts a campaign on managing stress at work, representing the world’s largest campaign on occupational health and safety.

You can read the AGE Platform Europe’s input to the stakeholder consultation here.

For more information, please contact Philippe Seidel at the AGE Secretariat:

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