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, as well as 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 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:

Evaluation OSH legislation (2007-2012)

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 the ex-post evaluation of the implementation of the OSH framework have been described in a Commission Staff Working Document. It confirms that the EU legislation in the field of health and safety at work is generally effective and fit-for-purpose, but that there are challenges to be addressed with a view to improvising its performance.

External studies on the basis of the evaluation of the OSH legislation are:

Strategic and policy framework

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

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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