Latvia: Riga hosts workplace health and safety events

Occupational health and safety at work issues were discussed during the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU at an international conference on occupational health and safety on 27– 28 April 2015. They also formed the focus of presentations and events during Responsible Business Week over 8–14 June 2015.

On 27–28 April 2015, in Riga, the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU hosted an International conference on occupational health and safety issues – 'From the strategic framework towards effective implementation: OSH can be simple and entertaining'. The conference focused on the implementation of the European Commission’s Communication on the strategic framework for safety and health at work 2014–2020. A key element of the conference was discussion on workplace health protection issues; in addition, there was an awards ceremony for good practice within the framework of the European 'Healthy workplaces manage stress' information campaign, organised by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

Supported by EU funds (EaSi-PROGRESS Program 2015), the conference brought together representatives from the European Commission, EU-OSHA, EU institutions, international organisations and academia, representatives from employers’ and workers’ organisations and from the governments of EU Member States, candidate countries and European Economic Area countries.

On the first day, participants discussed further actions aimed at improving working conditions, particularly in micro and small enterprises. Interactive web-based tools were presented in parallel with the plenary sessions: an interactive guide to emotions developed by the Rural Support Service as well as web-based games addressing such issues as finding risks at the workplace and calculating the cost of accidents. Participants also received the latest statistics and survey results regarding the health and safety situation in European enterprises. The second day focused on practical aspects of implementation of safety and health at work issues, including new methods of disseminating information and the use of social media and videos. Videos of the presentations are available in a Youtube playlist.

On 8–14 June 2015, an exhibition on work protection was held in Riga Central railway station as part of the Responsible Business Week programme organised by the Institute for Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility, the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia (LBAS) and the Latvian Employers’ Confederation (LDDK). Besides the exhibition, the programme included a conference on the 'Market of responsible ideas', discussion on policy planning in Latvia and an awards ceremony for a Sustainability Index.

Opening the exhibition, the representative of the State Labour Inspectorate (VDI) stressed that the number of lethal and serious cases at work is high in Latvia and the total number of accidents at work is on the rise. Since 1 January 2015, some 581 accidents at work have been registered, of which 67 were serious. Between January and May 2015, some 43 employees died at the workplace. On the positive side, the increase in the total number of accidents at work has been mainly due to cases not classed as serious; moreover, many of the fatal cases were classed as natural deaths. However, the average age of those who have died at work due to natural causes is relatively young – 52 years. The fact that people have died at work points to the necessity to pay more attention to the number of hours people spend at work and their work load, as well as their overall habits. The number of cases of natural death rose from 32 in 2013 to 42 in 2014; in the first five months of 2015, it stood at 29.

Director of Institute for Occupational Safety and Environmental Health Ivars Vanadziņš stressed that the most dangerous sectors are construction and logging; the least dangerous are agriculture, transport and manufacturing. However, as Vanadziņš explained, lethal accidents occur in these sectors more frequently and cannot be hidden; at the same time, sectors exists in which accidents may be concealed, which distorts official statistics. 

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