The European Commission has launched an initiative to improve the safety and health of workers in the EU. It has announced three key action points.

TF – 01/2017

As part of the REFIT programme and ongoing plans for a European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU Commission looked at how occupational safety and health in the EU could be further improved. The new initiative aims to react to the changing world of work and adapt EU legislation to changing models of employment and developments in society. The Commission’s focus is on the fight against work-related cancer, on helping companies comply with the existing legislative framework and on making procedures less bureaucratic and more results-oriented.  

The aim of the three key action points approved by the Commission in January 2017 is to help with the tangible implementation of the initiative. Firstly, the Commission will set exposure limits or other measures for an additional seven cancer-causing chemical substances. This ties in with the work done by the Commission last year on the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC) which contains measures to reduce exposure of European workers to 13 cancer-causing chemicals. Given that cancer remains the number one cause of work-related deaths in the EU, reducing exposure to carcinogens is seen as a priority challenge. 


Secondly, there will be assistance for companies, particularly small and micro enterprises, in their efforts to comply with OSH regulations. More than 30% of micro enterprises do not conduct a workplace risk assessment. A set of guidelines with practical tips as well as improvements to the accessibility of free online tools aim to help make it easier for these enterprises to conduct risk assessments and make them more effective.  


Thirdly, the European Commission, in conjunction with the Member States and social partners, will remove or update outdated rules within the next two years. This is being done as part of the REFIT programme and aims to simplify and reduce administrative burden while maintaining workers’ protection. The measure is also intended to contribute to better enforcement of the provisions on site. 


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