In a changing world of work, the EU looks to modernize its occupational safety and health legislative framework related to the green and digital transitions. The main goal of the 2021 – 2027 OSH framework is to make the workplaces fit for the future.
For more than two decades, EU occupational safety and health (OSH) strategic frameworks have played a crucial role in how national authorities align on common OSH priorities, cooperate, invest, and promote concrete actions at a workplace level.
The rationale behind the new OSH framework is the increasing changes in a growing market with green and digital transitions, rapidly advancing technologies, economic and demographic challenges, sustainable development, and the changes in work organizations.
The three key objectives are:
- Anticipating and managing change to meet the green and digital transitions
- Having all Member States fulfill a “vision zero” approach and commit to eliminating work-related deaths and reducing work-related illness by 2030
- Increasing preparedness and responding rapidly to threats
To deliver and adapt to these objectives, all businesses, big and small, public and private, need to take immediate action and adjust to stay attractive as a place to work also in the future
Covid-19 leaves behind a more human-centric industry
At the same time, as many European industries are adapting to the “new normal,” it reveals that building a more sustainable and resilient society and economy requires a dual acceleration of green and digital transitions.
In the past few years, several initiatives have been introduced to anticipate and manage change. To transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy, the “NextGenereationEU” will support initiatives such as “The European Green Deal, the “EU digital strategy,” and the “Industry 5.0 strategy” for Europe. The 1.8 trillion EU budget for 2021 – 2027 is predicted to generate significant investments contributing to growth, innovation, and new jobs that provide flexibility and opportunities for workers and businesses.
Earlier this year, the European Commission published a report stating that for the industry to survive in the future, it must become the accelerator and enabler of change and innovation.
The key to success with a human-centered approach will require investments in people’s skill development. Through a life-long learning approach, employees can acquire and update skills that help them adapt to new and emerging risks and improve safety and health at work.
In a resolution of December 2020, the European Parliament calls on the Member States to eliminate work-related deaths and reduce work-related illness by 2030.
To reach this goal, the new OSH framework will play an important role. As it states, preventing work-related deaths will only be possible if the following obligations apply across all sectors and professions, both public and private employers:
- A thorough investigation of accidents and fatalities at the workplace;
- Identifying and addressing the cause of these accidents and deaths at the workplace;
- Increasing awareness of the risks related to the accidents, injuries, and occupational diseases;
- Lessons learned from near misses
Sustainable OSH is the backbone of the EU economy
As healthy and safe working conditions are essential aspects to any business aiming to provide sustainable and competitive workplaces, a healthy and productive workforce is an equally important aspect of the EU economy. According to estimates based on Eurostat and World Bank data presented by EU-OSHA, work-related accidents and illness cost the EU economy over 3,3% of GDP annually (ca. EUR 460 billion in 2019).
Aside from the economic cost, the community and human suffering caused by poor EHS management are never fully recognized in any statistics or figures. Knowing that there are technology and digital tools available that helps business prevent both deaths, accidents, and work-related diseases, makes this insight even more unfortunate.
When reports on socioeconomic costs of accidents at work and work-related ill-health state that for every euro investing in OSH, the return for the employer is around twice as much, there seems to be no excuse for governments, employers, and workers not to take action.