More ambitious measures needed from the EC.

SW – 02/2022

On February 1, 2022, MEPs in the European Parliament's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs adopted a draft report by rapporteur Marianne Vind (S&D, DK) about a new EU strategic framework for health and safety in the workplace after 2020 (see Report 10-2021).

Strengthen prevention

Whereas the committee's MEPs welcomed the EC's "Vision Zero" approach in the EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety in the workplace 2021 - 2027 covering work-related accidents and illnesses, they also called for a roadmap to reduce occupational accidents and work-related fatalities to achieve this objective.

A much stronger focus on prevention strategies, the strengthening of labour inspectorates, national health and safety services and social partner dialogues as well as other legally binding initiatives to protect workers, should help in this respect.

Reducing worker exposure to hazardous chemicals

In order to combat occupational cancers, committee members called for a more ambitious timeline for protecting against hazardous chemicals, especially with regard to the further revision of Directive 2004/37/EU about protecting workers from the risks related to being exposed to carcinogens and mutagens at work. The EC should immediately update the regulations covering maximum allowable concentrations for at least 25 additional priority substances.

Furthermore, workers should be protected from exposure to endocrine disruptors and occupational cancers associated with night shift working. Special attention must be paid to groups that are particularly exposed to hazardous chemicals, such as workers in the agricultural and chemical industries or to especially vulnerable people, such as pregnant or breastfeeding workers.

Learning from the pandemic

Members of the committee placed a special emphasis on protecting and promoting mental health in the workplace with an eye on the COVID-19 pandemic, especially amongst health care professionals and other "front line" workers. They called for an EU directive on psycho/social risks and well-being at work to prevent, amongst other things, anxiety, burnout, depression and stress at work. The EC should push for anxiety, burnout and depression to be recognised as occupational diseases.

With regard to the sharp increase in the number of employees working from home since the start of the pandemic, the Committee's MEPs, in line with their resolution of January 21, 2021, reiterated their call for the EC to present a directive covering the right to be unavailable.

They also called on the EC, in response to the pandemic, to launch a specific revision of Directive 2000/54/EU about protecting workers from risks related to being exposed to biological agents at work.

Next steps

The plenary of the European Parliament will vote on the report during its March session.