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 priorities.

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 .

Strategy review

The 2023 Occupational Safety and Health summit will assess the progress made to date and identify the need for adaptation.


Further information and overviews on the subject can be found at the following link.