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Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Adoption of Strategic Framework on Health and Safety
Brussels, 6 June 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today we are renewing the European Commission's commitment to continuously upgrade people's working conditions in the EU. People have the right to work without facing health or safety risks in the workplace. Yet every year more than 3 million workers are victims of a serious accident at work every year in the EU and 4000 workers die in workplace accidents.
Work related accidents and diseases affect all sectors and professions, irrespective of whether people are sitting behind a desk, driving a truck or working in a mine or on a construction site. They not only cause personal suffering but also impose high costs on companies and society as a whole in terms of lower productivity and higher health care costs.
It makes sense to coordinate workplace health and safety rules at EU level in order to ensure that all EU workers enjoy high levels of protection, irrespective of where they work, and to ensure that EU companies enjoy a level playing field throughout the Single Market and avoid 28 totally different sets of rules.
This new Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work for the 2014-2020 period aims to contribute to improving job quality and job satisfaction, while improving the competitiveness and productivity of European companies, especially small businesses, reducing costs for companies and improving the sustainability of social security systems.
It is based on sound evidence that investing in preventive occupational health and safety pays off not only for workers, but also for companies and the economy as a whole, notably in terms of less absences, higher productivity and lower health care costs. For example, according to recent estimates, investments in occupational health and safety can produce high ratios of return, averaging 2.2.
Fortunately we are not starting from scratch. Far from it. The EU is recognised worldwide as reference model to follow for all those who want to create healthier and safer workplaces, in order to improve job quality for the benefit of the workers as well as businesses. The strategic framework outlines our international cooperation in this area.
As a result of the previous 2007-2012 EU Health and Safety Strategy 27 Member States now have a national strategy, adapted to the national context and key priority areas. During that period, the incidence rate of work accidents leading to absences of more than three days was reduced significantly.
But clearly we have to do better. This Communication, based on extensive analysis and consultations, identifies key challenges and strategic objectives for the EU's health and safety at work policy and presents key actions and instruments to address these challenges and objectives in the future.
The three main challenges identified in the Communication are:
This new Framework sets out concrete actions to address these challenges and thus to ensure healthier and safer working conditions across the EU.
For example, by building the capacity of national labour inspectors in order to improve effective enforcement of health and safety legislation. We will support the implementation of health and safety rules by micro and small companies, for example by a web platform providing risk-assessment tools, while continuing simplification of the legislation to eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens.
The new Framework will help Member States to improve their national health and safety strategies by mutual learning and exchanges of good practices. It will also make it easier to compare the effectiveness of different Member States' strategies by better collection of health and safety statistics and developing improved monitoring tools.
The European Social Fund can play a key role to help Member States to improve their national health and safety at work policies.
For example, the ESF can help to finance the recruitment and return to work of people with chronic diseases and to develop measures to prevent workers' exposure to toxic substances at the workplace.
This Framework also points out that worker and employer representatives have a crucially important role to play in both developing new health and safety measures and ensuring their effective implementation in practice.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am convinced that this new health and safety Framework will bring significant improvements to people's working conditions, to the benefit of European workers and companies, and the European economy as a whole.