Commission launches new health and safety strategy

The European Commission launched a new four-year health and safety strategy in March 2002, concentrating on matters such as bullying and violence at work and stress-related conditions. It also aims to establish and consolidate a culture of risk prevention and build on existing achievements.

On 12 March 2002, the European Commission adopted a Communication on Adapting to change in work and society: a new Community strategy on health and safety at work 2002–6. The Commission states that, while the number of occupational accidents fell by just under 10% between 1994 and 1998, the absolute figures are still high. It is also concerned about the relatively high incidence of occupational accidents in the countries applying to join the EU. The novel features of the new four-year strategy are that:

  • it takes a 'global approach to well-being at work' by looking at issues such as the changing nature of the world of work and the emergence of new risks, and particularly those of a psycho-social nature. With this in mind, the Commission states its intention to issue a proposal for an EU Directive on the issue of bullying and violence at the workplace. Further, it intends to consult the social partners on the issue of stress-related conditions;
  • the Commission intends to use all available policy instruments, including legislation, social dialogue, benchmarking, the exchange of best practice, corporate social responsibility and economic incentives. It also intends to develop active partnerships between all those involved in health and safety; and
  • it aims to consolidate a culture of risk prevention at the workplace and strengthen existing achievements, through more effective enforcement of standards and rules and through improved education and training.

Anna Diamantopoulou, the Employment and Social Policy Commissioner, stated that 'EU health and safety strategy must move with the times. EU accident and death rates are still unacceptable. In addition, new types of work have created new types of workplace risk, such as stress-related conditions caused by the ever-faster pace of work. These new conditions must be addressed now and as far as possible anticipated and prevented at the workplace.'

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