Gaps in occupational safety and health
Legal framework is lacking with regard to new forms of work.
SW – 10/2019
This is the conclusion of a report on health and safety in the workplace of the future commissioned by the European
Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.
The report is based on recent scientific
research and reports by policy makers. It identifies future risks to the
physical and mental health and safety of workers that could result from
technology-driven changes in the workplace, such as:
- Changes to working conditions in the workplace resulting from automation
and robotics, digitalisation, and new types of working environments such
as virtual reality and augmented reality; the use of algorithms; and
surveillance technologies to monitor worker behaviour in the workplace.
- Changes in the organisation and delivery of work with a focus
on bogus self-employment, zero-hours/non-guaranteed minimum hours
contracts, the gig economy, platform work and telework.
- Other health and safety risks.
The report identifies gaps in the existing
European legislation on health and safety at work and ways in which these could
be filled. It concludes that many of the European Union’s 24 OSH Directives and
Directive 2003/88/EC on working time refer only to ‘workers’ and exclude bogus
self-employed workers or persons providing services and labour on the basis of
other personal employment contracts. Health and safety at work are of paramount
importance in the European Union and form one of the cornerstones of the
European Pillar of Social Rights.
The authors suggest that consideration
should be given to amending the safety and health acquis in order to extend
occupational health and safety in the EU beyond the category of ‘worker’ to
include bogus self-employed and non-standard employment relationships.
The report recommends further research into
the health and safety risks posed by these new technologies and work patterns
as they are currently under-researched. If scientific research shows that
legislation is needed to address psychosocial risks in the workplace, physical
collisions in shared workplaces or musculoskeletal disorders due to new
technologies and patterns of work, there should be further exploration of possibilities
of new legislation or amendment of the existing legal framework.
In its conclusions of June 2019, the
Council had already addressed the issue of the changing world of work and the
challenges for the safety and health of workers due to new forms of work (see article July
The Commissioner-designate for Jobs,
Nicolas Schmit, also highlighted that the changing world of work calls for a
new approach to safety and health at work. In his hearing before the European Parliament on 1 October 2019, he stressed that he was
concerned about safety and health at work. In his written reply to the European
he stressed that he wanted to ensure a high level of health and safety at work.
To do this, he intends to explore possibilities beyond the current EU strategic
framework on safety and health at work, which is in place until 2020. In order
to address key risks such as cancer, stress, mental health and musculoskeletal
disorders, Schmit stated that current policy tools need to be carefully