The economy and its impact on occupational safety and health loom large in the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work’s (EU-OSHA) 2012 annual report. In the report’s foreword, EU-OSHA Director Dr. Christa Sedlatschek argued that making a strong economic and ethical case for workplace health and safety is more important now than ever.
“At the moment we are seeing the effects of the economic crisis,” wrote Sedlatschek. That crisis includes cuts in spending on occupational safety and health (OSH) across the entire European Union. But “smart companies are aware of the importance, in tough times, of maintaining their levels of support for workplace health and safety. Eventually we will see an improvement in the economic situation, and then these businesses will need healthy, qualified people working in them.”
The 2012 annual report highlights the agency’s achievements and progress in several areas:
- The completion of EU-OSHA’s flagship Foresight project, which anticipates longer-term workplace risks (initially in relation to green jobs), to stimulate debate and make clear to decision-makers the implications of particular courses of action.
- The development of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), provides a real-time picture of how some important workplace risks are being managed in Europe, especially psychosocial risks such as work-related stress, violence and harassment.
- The launch of the new Healthy Workplaces Campaign, titled “Working Together for Risk Prevention.” Thus far, 87 pan-European organizations, social partners and multinational companies have joined this campaign.
- The continued development of EU-OSHA’s free, online interactive risk assessment (OiRA) software to carry out risk assessments in a straightforward and cost-effective way. Specific tools are being made available covering hairdressing and office work in Cyprus, road transport in France, and the leather and tanning industry throughout the EU.
- 2012 was the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, and EU-OSHA took an active part in it, making information available on how to help employees stay fit for work for longer.
- Awareness-raising activities have included a campaign that alerts workers and employers to changes in hazard pictograms for dangerous substances through a new online toolkit.
- Finally, EU-OSHA has begun a series of consultations around its next multi-annual strategic program, which is due to come into effect in 2013.
“In 2013, we at the Agency will also continue with what we have always done. Reaching out to new audiences with messages about the importance of OSH, including making the business case for OSH in these difficult times,” Sedlatschek wrote, adding that this case argues “devoting time and resources to OSH is an investment and that good OSH is good for business, providing trusted information to organisations across Europe and giving them the practical tools to help them keep their employees safe.”
The report, Keeping Europe’s Workers Safe, Now and In the Future, may be downloaded from EU-OSHA’s site.