Reducing work-related accidents and illness through better risk assessment
European Commission - IP/08/931 13/06/2008
Brussels, 13 June 2008
Every year 5,720 people die in the European Union as a consequence of work-related accidents, according to EUROSTAT figures. Besides that, the International Labour Organisation estimates that an additional 159,500 workers in the EU die every year from occupational diseases. Taking both figures into consideration, it is estimated that every three-and-a-half minutes somebody in the EU dies from work-related causes. Most of these accidents and diseases are preventable, and the first step in preventing them is risk assessment. That is the message of “Healthy Workplaces. Good for you. Good for business.”, the Europe-wide information campaign on risk assessment, launched by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). The campaign focuses especially on high-risk sectors such as construction, healthcare and agriculture, and on the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises. It will run over two years (2008-09).
Under EU law, all employers in the EU are required to carry out risk assessments. Risk assessment helps employers understand the action they need to take to improve workplace health and safety.
“Every occupational accident and disease is one too many”, says Vladimír Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. “Even if they don’t result in fatalities, the consequences are unacceptable, both for the people concerned and for the economy. Every year, millions of workers in the EU are involved in accidents which force them to stay at home for at least three working days at an enormous cost to the economy. Risk assessment is the key to reducing these figures. But it can only be the first step – implementation must follow.”
The Healthy Workplaces campaign highlights the necessity for risk assessment in line with the Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work (2007–2012), which aims to cut work-related accidents over this period by a quarter across the EU.
According to EU-OSHA Director Jukka Takala, “with the Healthy Workplaces campaign we want to encourage enterprises to carry out risk assessment properly, involving everyone in the workplace. We want to promote good practice that can be adapted to other workplaces.” Takala also highlights the key messages of the campaign: “First, risk assessment is not necessarily complicated, bureaucratic or a task only for experts. This is a mistaken belief that is particularly common among SMEs. But there are plenty of tools available (such as checklists) that help in the process, and EU-OSHA promotes a simple five-step approach. Secondly, proper risk assessment also brings a number of business benefits, because making workplaces safer and healthier helps to reduce absenteeism and insurance costs, and increases worker motivation and productivity.”
“Risk assessment ultimately also helps to reduce the burden on national health care systems”, says Romana Tomc, Slovenian State Secretary of Labour, Family and Social Affairs. The present and upcoming EU Presidencies and the EU social partners all strongly support the campaign, as do the focal points – usually the national occupational safety and health authorities – in all 27 Member States. “This shows that occupational safety and health at work is a key issue for the European social model”, she adds.
Radio message/interview (to be recorded):
 EUROSTAT 2005: Figure in recorded economic sectors covering 87% of the workforce in the 27 EU member states.
 ILO 2005: Figure is an estimation for the EU27; http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/safework/wdcongrs17/index.htm
 Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work: http://osha.europa.eu/legislation/directives/A/1/1