The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has launched an informational campaign aimed at cutting the number of work-related accidents.
The campaign, which is being backed by all member states, the European Commission and Parliament, trade unions and employers federations will run until October and end with the European Week for Safety and Health at Work.
Every year about 5,500 people are killed in workplace accidents across the European Union (EU).
There are more than 4.5 million accidents that result in more than three days absence from work, amounting to around 146 million working days lost.
According to the agency, the problem effects all sectors of the European economy and is particularly acute in businesses with less than 50 workers.
Slips, trips and falls cause most accidents, followed by manual handling, being struck by moving or falling objects, and transport accidents.
However, the agency believes the majority of accidents can be prevented by good management practice and by following existing European Directives on safety at work.
Getting this message across is the goal of the European Week for Safety and Health at Work.
"Far too many Europeans, earning a living is costing them their health and even their lives," said Anna Diamantopoulou, European commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs. "The economic costs of work-related accidents are enormous, but the human costs are infinitely greater. Cutting those costs is the key aim of this year''s European Week. I therefore urge all businesses to take up this challenge and get involved in the Week."
The campaign will include a European good practice award scheme, which will recognize innovative, practical solutions to preventing accidents at work.
Events will be organized in October across Europe to take the message into workplaces of all sizes and sectors.
Next month, the European Agency will launch a special accident prevention program targeted at Europe''s small- and medium-sized companies, which account for the highest accident risks.
by Virginia Sutcliffe