That's why the agency is launching the "Safe Start" campaign to raise awareness among employers and the European Union's 75 million young people about the importance of safe work practices.
Announcing the launch, European Union Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Vladimír Spidla said protecting young workers is a responsibility that everyone shares.
"Employers have a duty of care and are legally responsible for the health and safety of their workers, and E.U. law recognizes that young people need special protection," Spidla said. "But this is also an issue for parents, for health and safety professionals and for the education community. And ultimately, it's an issue for policymakers. We all have to work together, to make sure that young people have a safe and healthy start to their working lives."
Safe Start already has received support from employers' representatives, trade unions, youth organizations and the education sector, as well as all the E.U. member states, according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
In addition to making employers and young workers more aware of the hazards that can be found on the job, one of the objectives of Safe Start is to involve educators in instilling principles of workplace safety and health in young people early on in their educations.
"We can't just leave it until young people have already started work to teach them about health and safety," said Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work." We have to reach them early while they are still at school or college so that they get used to a culture of risk prevention."
Safe Start features a wide range of engaging quizzes, interactive learning materials and events, including good-practice awards and a competition to find the European Young Filmmaker of the Year on a health and safety theme. The campaign culminates in the European Week for Safety and Health at Work from Oct. 23-27, which will include a wide range of awareness-raising activities being organized across Europe.
For more information, visit the campaign Web site.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, based in Bilbao, Spain, was set up by the European Union to provide information on occupational safety and health.