In a plenary meeting of 11 December 2014, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion on the European Union’s Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work for the period 2014-2020. This follows on from the European Commission’s consultation, in accordance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on its Communication of 6 June 2014.
Key points of the EESC’s opinion are as follows:
- It strongly approves the Commission’s stated intention of focusing on prevention and simplification of the rules – without jeopardizing the existing levels of protection – and compliance with those rules. The strategy should ensure a balance between a high level of protection and the administrative burden for businesses.
- It is pleased to see the great interest shown by the Commission for SMEs, and by the opinions, information and guidelines it provide them with via ICTs, and the strengthening of coordination between government departments in providing support for SMEs.
- It considers it essential that labour inspectors should receive more and better training: in around half of the Member States, the minimum threshold recommended by the ILO (namely 1 inspector per 10,000 workers) has not been reached.
- It recommends that the Commission adopt measures allowing young people in general, young people recently made redundant, trainees and apprentices to receive appropriate and practical information and training.
- It invites businesses and the Member States to invest more in prevention and to ensure worker participation.
- It invites the Commission to publish very urgently the reports and statistical analyses of the list of occupational diseases, including accidents occurring during working hours. It feels that the work of the specialist agencies should be stepped up and widely disseminated, and that good practices should be disseminated to help reinforce a workplace safety culture. It also considers it necessary to investigate new risks in greater detail and to prepare appropriate measures (of a legislative or other type) based on the results of the research undertaken.
- It invites the Commission to step up discussions and consultations with the social partners and to develop joint initiatives, this approach being fundamental for effective implementation of the strategy.
- It criticizes the fact that the Commission defines no quantified European objective for occupational injuries and diseases, and recommends that Member States incorporate this quantification within the framework of their national strategies.