The European Council adopts conclusions.

SW – 12/2021

Occupational health and safety, a culture of prevention and lifelong learning are the focus of the Conclusions on "Lifelong employability", which the European Council adopted at its meeting on 6 December 2021. These fundamental pillars aim to address the decline in the working age population, the increase in life expectancy and the issue of ensuring adequate and sustainable social protection systems.

Investing in lifelong employability pays off

Lifelong employability should enable people to take up gainful employment and to remain employed throughout their extended working lives. This can be achieved by investing in quality jobs, fair working conditions, occupational health and safety, upskilling and retraining as well as a better work-life balance. Investment in occupational safety and health also has an economic benefit as work-related injuries and illnesses cost society more than 3.3% of the GDP.

In the context of the European Commission's consultation on the so-called "roadmap" for the EU's strategic framework for health and safety at work 2021-2027, the German Social Insurance system also spoke out in favour of prevention that takes account of the ageing of the working population. This is a prerequisite for a high level of health and safety at work and a working environment that meets the occupational health and safety requirements of workers, and enables them to participate in the labour market for a long time. Both objectives are enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Member States have a duty

Member States are invited to update their national legal frameworks and current strategies for occupational health and safety, taking into account the EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027. With lifelong learning opportunities, they should help people keep pace with changes in the world of work. It also aims to improve working conditions, social protection and access to lifelong learning in atypical employment.  

Mainstreaming occupational health and safety

Ministers wish to strengthen the mainstreaming of occupational health and safety in all relevant policies and strategies, in particular in the areas of public health, social welfare, general vocational training, digitisation and artificial intelligence, as well as in public procurement. The desired promotion of a culture of prevention by the Member States and the European Commission, each within their respective competences, is very welcome.

Combating occupational cancers

The European Commission should play its part in the rapid and full implementation of the measures of the strategic framework which fall within its competence, focusing on combating occupational cancers through further progress in setting maximum allowable concentrations.

A more ambitious approach had already been called for by Marianne Vind (MEP/S&D), the reporter responsible for the European Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. In its draft report on the new "EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2021 - 2027", the European Commission calls for the continuous revision of Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work, so that the maximum allowable concentrations contained in the Directive apply to at least 50 priority substances by 2024 (see report 10/2021).