European Awards Recognize Good Practices in Accident Prevention

Awards include reductions in slips, trips and falls; safety awareness; and an employer-union partnership.

Seventeen companies from across Europe received awards in recognition of their innovative approaches to preventing workplace accidents at an awards ceremony Nov. 23 in Brussels. The awards program, organized by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, has uncovered a rich variety of effective approaches to preventing accidents at work.

The award-winning good practices ranged from an action plan devised by a Spanish engine components manufacturer that resulted in a 70 percent cut in accidents from slips, trips and falls, to a safety awareness campaign targeted at Belgium''s fishing fleet, and a successful, 10-year partnership program between employers and unions at a UK chemicals firm.

Each year, about 5 500 people are killed at work in the European Union (EU) and 75,000 are so severely injured they have to stop full-time employment. Latest figures reveal that, in 1998, there were 4.7 million accidents that led to more than three days absence from work. It is estimated that work-related accidents cost the countries in the EU 150 million lost-work days each year. Direct insurance costs alone are in the region of $20 billion annually, but the vast majority of such accidents are preventable, according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.

The aim of the awards is to acknowledge and motivate good practice activities and stimulate the sharing of practical solutions to prevent work-related accidents. The award ceremony was part of this year''s European Week for Safety and Health at Work. To celebrate the week, thousands of activities focused on accident prevention took place across Europe in October and November.

Real workplace examples of effective good practices were nominated by member states. They cover many different types of organizations including small businesses, the public and private sectors, as well as trade unions working in partnership with employers, and national health and safety institutions.

"Levels of workplace accidents remain unacceptably high across Europe," said Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, the director of the agency. "The initiatives show that accident rates can be cut. The agency and the European jury have been impressed by the quality of the good practices nominated by member states. A key aim now is to make these practical solutions accessible via the agency Web site and other media so we can all benefit from these experiences."

The Web site for the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work is europe.osha.eu.int .

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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