Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Strategic policy documents

To better protect the millions of workers in the EU from work-related accidents and diseases, the European Commission has adopted various policy strategic documents, identifying key challenges and actions to be taken to improve health and safety at work.

European Pillar of Social Rights 

The European Pillar of Social Rights, proclaimed on November 2017, is about delivering new and more effective rights for citizens. It has three main categories:

  • Equal opportunities and access to the labour market
  • Fair working conditions
  • Social protection and inclusion

The Pillar builds upon 20 key principles, structured around these three categories. In the area of fair working conditions, principle 10 provides that every worker in the EU has the right to a healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment. 

More specifically, workers have the right to a high level of protection of their health and safety at work and the right to a working environment adapted to their professional needs and which enables them to prolong their participation in the labour market.

Communication “Safer and Healthier Work for All”

In January 2017, the Commission adopted its Communication on “Safer and Healthier Work for All - Modernisation of the EU Occupational Safety and Health Legislation and Policy”. The document identifies the following three key actions in the field of safety and health at work:

  • Stepping up the fight against occupational cancer through legislative proposals accompanied by increased guidance and awareness-raising;
  • Helping businesses, in particular micro-enterprises and SMEs, to comply with occupational safety and health rules;
  • Cooperating with Member States and social partners to remove or update outdated rules and to refocus efforts on ensuring better and broader protection, compliance and enforcement on the ground.

Based on these three areas, the Communication describes various specific actions the Commission commits to in order to address OSH challenges and to bring further impetus to the EU Strategy Framework on Health and Safety at work (see below).

EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020

This EU Strategic Framework aims to ensure that the EU continues to play a leading role in the promotion of high standards for working conditions both within Europe and internationally, in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy.

The Strategic Framework identifies three major health and safety at work challenges:

  • to improve implementation of existing health and safety rules, in particular by enhancing the capacity of micro and small enterprises to put in place effective and efficient risk prevention strategies
  • to improve the prevention of work-related diseases by tackling new and emerging risks without neglecting existing risks
  • to take account of the ageing of the EU's workforce.

The Strategic Framework proposes to address these challenges with a range of actions under seven key strategic objectives:

  • Further consolidating national health and safety strategies through, for example, policy coordination and mutual learning.
  • Providing practical support to small and micro enterprises to help them to better comply with health and safety rules. Businesses would benefit from technical assistance and practical tools, such as the Online Interactive Risk Assessment (OiRA), a web platform providing sectoral risk assessment tools.
  • Improving enforcement by Member States for example by evaluating the performance of national labour inspectorates.
  • Simplifying existing legislation where appropriate to eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens, while preserving a high level of protection for workers’ health and safety.
  • Addressing the ageing of the European workforce and improving prevention of work-related diseases to tackle existing and new risks such as nanomaterials, green technology and biotechnologies.
  • Improving statistical data collection to have better evidence and developing monitoring tools.
  • Reinforcing coordination with international organisations, such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and partners, to contribute to reducing work accidents and occupational diseases and to improving working conditions worldwide.

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