Parliamentary Watch: calling for a culture of prevention at the workplace

The European Commission has released the Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020 in late 2014. The framework put the emphasis on non-legislative actions to reach out to small and medium-sized enterprises, explore new and emerging risks such as psycho-social conditions or exposure to new materials and the exchange of practices. The new Juncker Commission has announced a ‘refit’ exercise for health and safety regulation, meaning it will be reviewed with the aim of simplification. Doubts are cast by trade unions that this might mean a reduction of safety standards. The Commission’s view is that legislation can be simplified without lowering protection.

In its reaction, the European Parliament highlighted that lower protection for workers is not acceptable, but that ‘improving the quality’ of the regulatory framework is positive.  The Parliament asked that new and emerging risks such as nanomaterials, musculoskeletal disorders are included. On psycho-social disorders, the Parliament called for systematic monitoring of stress, burnout and depression and for specific programmes that should develop recommendations on these risks.

What is there for older persons?

The Parliament called on the Commission and the Member States to design appropriate policies to address the ageing of the workforce and considered sound health and safety rules as a way to provide healthy work environments throughout people’s working life and enabling them to work up to statutory retirement age. It stressed the importance of preventive policies and workplace health promotion, as a way to foster a ‘culture of prevention’ starting already with apprenticeships.

The Parliament also called for more attention to be paid to groups of workers, such as domestic workers who often operate outside of all health and safety frameworks. All occupational health and safety measures should include a gender dimension, it said, looking at the specific risks of women and at sectors where the workforce is predominantly composed of women.

AGE view

AGE Platform Europe has repeatedly called for comprehensive health and safety policies, including legislative obligations for employers, as a way to promote health prevention of risks. Occupational health and safety rules have a key role to create the physical and mental capacity to cope with longer working lives, and therefore are also key to the success of pension reforms. The gender aspects and new forms of risks have to be taken as seriously as traditional risks that are already enshrined in legislation.

Read the full report here.

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