AGE responds to EC consultation on new EU OSH policy framework

On 26 August, AGE responded to the European Commission’s online public consultation on the new EU occupational health and safety policy framework. The objective of this consultation was to gather insights and contributions on the European Strategy on Safety and Health at Work 2007-2012. It also sought to identify current and future challenges in the occupational safety and health areaas well as to identify solutions to address these challenges.

In its response, AGE submitted its views on the existing EU occupational health and safety strategy and on what aspects should be covered in a new EU OSH framework. AGE considers that there remains scope for improvement in a future strategy, in particular in terms of the integration and coordination with other relevant policy areas and between the various actors involved at the EU level. There also continue to be a number of important problems and issues which need to be addressed with regard to workers of all ages including ergonomics and actions to prevent accidents at work and occupational diseases as well as specific health and safety concerns related to cognitive and physical changes and long-term health issues affecting ageing workers. AGE stressed that prevention is a key issue. The problems which older employees face must be considered now but these issues must also provide the impetus to implement preventive measures so that current generations of younger workers will not face the same difficulties later on.

AGE believes it is important to continue to focus on a number of ongoing issues related to occupational health and safety and to address these in conjunction with other EU strategies, including the Europe 2020 Strategy. There is a need for a stronger integration of OSH with broader health policies through an enhanced coordination with DG Health and Consumers and steps should also be taken to exploit synergies and ensure the coherence of the following policy areas: public health, regional development and social cohesion, public procurement, and employment and restructuring. Coordinating policies at EU level not only has a multiplier effect but also draws wider attention to the high costs of work-related accidents and diseases to businesses, social security systems and public finances.The coordination of health and safety measures must also help to preserve competition between companies on the European market and not impede the mobility of workers across the EU.

AGE considers that an OSH framework at EU level is necessary because health and safety at work is such a wide-ranging issue with short and long term effects, affecting the lives of the majority of people living in the EU, that it needs to be given a prominent place on the Community’s policy agenda for both economic and societal reasons. Retaining the over 50s at work is becoming increasingly important and the new OSH strategy should identify new risks attributable to the changing economic and social environment and to those associated with new technologies and the impact of demographic trends.A new policy framework should take a comprehensive approach and build on the strengths of the previous OSH strategy. It should include not only a list of concrete objectives and actions with a calendar and concrete performance evaluation but should also set out a vision for the future and define mid- and long-term goals and priorities.

Aspects covered in a new EU OSH strategy should include psycho-social issues, occupational health and safety management risks associated with work organisation and workplace design, ergonomics, musculoskeletal disorders and stress, and the specific needs of workers who are potentially more vulnerable such as older workers, as well as the gathering of relevant data and OSH research and the sharing of good practice/experience. It is also important to focus on the provision of information, training and performance assessment of management on these issues and not only on financial and operational achievements. Specific areas for EU action could include closing existing gaps in OSH legislation, raising awareness of the risks that more vulnerable workers face, improving implementation and enforcement of OSH legislation, expanding financial support for actions that address vulnerable groups, notably through the ESF, and improving research and data gathering.

For more information, please contact Rachel Buchanan, Policy Officer for Employment and Non-Discrimination at rachel.buchanan@age-platform.eu.

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