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IP/02/459

Brussels, 22 March, 2002

Commission adopts new strategy for health and safety at work.

The Commission has adopted a new strategy for health and safety at work for the period 2002-2006. The purpose of the plans is to modernise EU health and safety policy and rules to cover new types of workplace risk, such as bullying and violence at work and stress-related conditions. The strategy also seeks to consolidate a culture of risk prevention at work.

Anna Diamantopoulou, European Commissioner for employment and social affairs, said : 'EU health and safety strategy must move with the times. EU accident and death rates are still unacceptable. In addition, new types of work have created new types of workplace risk, such as stress-related conditions caused by the ever-faster pace of work. These new conditions must be addressed now and as far as possible anticipated and prevented at the workplace.'

These are the issues addressed by the new EU strategy, which covers the 2002-2006 period:

  • It adopts a global approach to well-being at work, taking account of changes in the world of work and the emergence of new risks, especially of a psycho-social nature. For instance, the Commission will table a proposal for a directive on bullying and violence at the workplace, and will consult the social partners on the issue of stress-related conditions. The strategy will thus help to enhance the quality of work, and regards a safe and healthy working environment as one of the essential components.

  • It will use all available policy instruments (legislation, social dialogue, benchmarking and best practices, corporate social responsibility and economic incentives) and will develop active partnerships between all the players on the safety and health scene.

  • Finally, it points to the fact that "non social policy" entails costs which weigh heavily on economies and societies, as it is demonstrated by the toll of accidents and diseases on families and insurers. The strategy therefore aims at consolidating a culture of risk prevention and at strengthening the achievements already made, through a more effective enforcement of standards and rules and through improved education and training.

Creating more and better jobs: that was the objective the European Union set itself at the Lisbon European Council in March 2000. Clearly, health and safety contribute to achieving this objective, for they are essential elements in terms of the quality of work.

The European Union has a positive record here, as the number of occupational accidents fell by just short of 10% between 1994 and 1998. This is the result of a comprehensive policy, with a strong focus on prevention, which has been developed for three decades. Nonetheless, the absolute figures remain high, with about 5 500 deaths and 4.8 million accidents resulting in three days or more off work. More importantly, a worrying return to a rising scale of accidents, in certain Member States and in certain sectors, has been evident since 1999. What is more, the candidate countries have an average frequency of occupational accidents which is well above the average for the EU, mainly because of their higher degree of specialisation in sectors which are traditionally regarded as high-risk.

For the full text of the new strategy, please see :

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/general/index_en.htm


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