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.

EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027

This EU strategic framework  identifies key challenges and strategic objectives for health and safety at work and presents actions and instruments to address these in the coming years. It addresses the changing needs in worker’s protection brought by the digital and green transitions, new forms of work and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the framework will continue to address traditional occupational safety and health risks, such as risks of accidents at work or exposure to hazardous chemicals.

The strategic framework focuses on three key objectives for the coming years:

  1. Anticipating and managing change in the new world of work: To ensure safe and healthy workplaces during the digital, green and demographic transitions, the Commission will review the Workplaces Directive and the Display Screen Equipment Directive and propose protective limits on asbestos and lead. It will prepare an EU-level initiative related to mental health at work that assesses emerging issues related to workers’ mental health and puts forward guidance for action.
  2.  Improving prevention of work-related diseases and accidents: This strategic framework will promote a ‘vision zero’ approach to eliminate work-related deaths in the EU. The Commission will also update EU rules on hazardous chemicals to combat cancer, reproductive, and respiratory diseases.
  3.  Increasing preparedness for possible future health threats: Drawing lessons from the current pandemic, the Commission will develop emergency procedures and guidance for the rapid deployment, implementation and monitoring of measures in potential future health crises, in close cooperation with public-health actors.

The actions in the strategic framework will be implemented through:

  • strong social dialogue
  • a strengthened evidence based policy-making
  • improved enforcement and monitoring of existing EU legislation
  • awareness-raising and
  • mobilising funding  to invest into occupational safety and health, including from EU funds like the Recovery and Resilience Facility and Cohesion policy funds

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. 

In June 2021, the European Commission presented a new strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-27 to update protection standards for workers and tackle traditional and new work-related risks. Subject to the outcome of the ongoing consultation of social partners, the Commission will put forward legal proposals in 2022 to further reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals including asbestos.

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).

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