Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Health and safety at work

Health and safety at work is one of the areas where the EU has had the biggest impact – with a solid legal framework covering the maximum number of risks with the minimum number of regulations.

As set out by principle 10 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, workers have the right to a high level of protection of their health and safety at work.

They have the right to a working environment adapted to their professional needs and which enables them to prolong their participation in the labour market. 

Legal basis

Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union gives the EU the authority to adopt legislation (directives) in the field of safety and health at work, in order to support and complement the activities of Member States.

Directive 89/391/EEC, the so-called occupational safety and health (OSH) “Framework Directive”, lays down the main principles to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. It guarantees minimum safety and health requirements throughout Europe while Member States are allowed to maintain or establish more stringent measures.

The Framework Directive is accompanied by further directives focusing on specific aspects of safety and health at work. Together they form the fundamentals of European safety and health legislation. Read more about specific OSH areas of activity.

Click below for an overview of OSH legislation:

Strategic and policy framework

To better protect workers in the EU from work-related accidents and diseases, the European Commission has adopted various strategic policy documents:

Practical implementation of EU OSH legislation

Every five years, the Commission is required to evaluate the practical implementation of the OSH legal framework.

The first ex-post evaluation (part of the ongoing EU REFIT programme) covered the period 2007 to 2012 and addressed the implementation of the Framework Directive and 23 related directives.

The main results of this first ex-post evaluation have been described in a Commission Staff Working Document. They confirmed that the EU legislation in the field of health and safety at work was generally effective and fit-for-purpose, but that there were challenges to be addressed to improve its performance.

As regards the period 2013-2017, the main assessment results of the practical implementation of the EU OSH Framework Directive and 23 related directives are described in a Commission Staff Working Document. The assessment is based, among others, on the Member States’s national implementation reports.

It showed that overall, the EU OSH framework works well, but a few specific directives need to be adapted to align them with technological and scientific developments. These are, for example, the Display Screen Equipment Directive and the Workplaces Directive.

Agencies

The European Commission works closely together with the following agencies to disseminate information, offer guidance and promote safe and healthy working environments:

Committees

Committees consisting of experts, national representatives and/or social partners representatives, contribute to developing, implementing and monitoring EU legislation on health and safety at work:

Data and statistics

The following sources provide useful information on data and key statistics concerning health and safety at work:

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