Focusing on change, prevention and precaution
New EU strategic framework for occupational health and safety.
SW – 07/2021
The EC presented the EU’s Strategic Framework for Occupational Health and Safety 2021
- 2027 on 28 June 2021. With this, it aims to
meet the challenges posed by environmental, digital and demographic changes,
improve the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases and strengthen
the preparedness for potential future crises. It identifies the specific
actions it intends to take in the coming months and years for each of these
Anticipating and managing change
Health and safety legislation will be
modernised and simplified under the context of environmental and digital
changes, especially the directives covering workplaces and display terminals. Revision of the directive on asbestos in
the workplace is also high on the agenda in view of the wave of renovations
expected under the European Green Deal (see report 4-2021). It is also intended to adjust the limit
value for lead in the Chemicals Directive in 2022 and to include cobalt in the
Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive in 2024.
Another focus of the new strategic
framework is the impact of change on workers' mental health. Accordingly, a
safe and healthy digital future and, in particular, psychosocial and ergonomic
risk issues will be the focus of the European Agency for Safety and Health at
Work's (EU-OSHA) "Healthy workplaces campaign" 2023 - 2025. The EC
also promises an appropriate follow-up to the European Parliament's resolution
on the right of non-accessibility. However, with regard to the issues
mentioned, it also sees the social partners as being called upon to update
existing agreements and to find common solutions.
Prevention of occupational accidents and diseases
The focus on improving prevention and the
"Vision zero" approach, which pursues the vision of a world without
occupational accidents and work-related illnesses and aims at a comprehensive
prevention culture, is also to be welcomed. Although significant progress has
already been made, there were still more than 3,300 fatal and 3.1 million
non-fatal accidents at work in 2018 in the EU-27 according to the EC. More than
200,000 workers also die each year from work-related illnesses. Therefore,
maintaining and improving occupational health and safety standards is a
constant challenge and necessity.
As under the previous strategic framework,
the EC will continue to update EU legislation covering dangerous chemicals to
tackle cancer, reproductive diseases and respiratory diseases, and to pursue
the dovetailing of the interface between the OSH and REACH regulations in line
with the "one substance, one assessment" approach. Protecting the health
workers should also be addressed, as called for by the European Parliament,
e.g. regarding exposure to dangerous medicines (see Report 4-2021).
Precautions against future health crises
The precautions being taken against
potential future health crises should be strengthened. The COVID-19 pandemic
has shown that occupational health and safety played an important role in
keeping workers safe and maintaining essential services. Based on the
assessment of the impact of the pandemic and the effectiveness of the EU and
national health and safety frameworks, emergency procedures and guidelines will
help to ensure the rapid introduction, implementation and monitoring of
measures for dealing with future health crises. It is also planned to include
COVID-19 in the list of occupational diseases in the EC’s Recommendation .
The 2023 Occupational Safety and Health
summit will assess the progress made to date and identify the need for
Further information and overviews on the
subject can be found at the following link.