EU-OSHA working hand in hand with EU legislation

An important anniversary is a time for both reflecting on the past and anticipating new challenges.

In its 25th anniversary year, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) reflects on the importance of the key directive in occupational safety and health (OSH), introduced 30 years ago, and looks forward to supporting the European Pillar of Social Rights. 

The Framework Directive

The publication of Directive 89/391/EEC — the European Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work — in June 1989 was a significant milestone for workers in Europe. It was the first piece of comprehensive EU OSH legislation, introducing common principles and minimum standards that applied across the region.

The Framework Directive made employers responsible for workers’ safety and health. The responsibility of the employer, the prevention principles established and the workers' information, training, consultation and balanced participation are the cornerstones on which the new approach to health and safety at work protection is based. Crucially, the Directive also put the principle of risk assessment at the heart of EU OSH legislation. 

The Framework Directive had to be transposed into all Member States’ national legislation by the end of 1992. It has since been followed by many other directives on specific aspects of work or hazards.

In a 2004 Communication, the European Commission (EC) concluded that the Framework Directive and some related directives had helped to simplify and rationalise national safety and health legislation. Furthermore, it had contributed to creating a risk prevention culture in EU workplaces and paved the way for putting OSH high on the EC’s agenda.

EU-OSHA actively contributed to the objectives of the subsequent EU Health and Safety Strategy 2007-2012 and the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014 – 2020 which activated the consequent consolidation and coordination of national strategies in EU Member States.

The European Pillar of Social Rights

Nearly 30 years after the introduction of the Framework Directive, another milestone — the European Pillar of Social Rights — delivers enhanced rights for the people of Europe in terms of welfare and employment.

… From the right to fair wages to the right to health care, from lifelong learning, a better work-life balance and gender equality to minimum income: with the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU stands up for the rights of its citizens in a fast-changing world.

 Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, 17 November 2017

The Pillar defines work as a fundamental social right and gives workers high levels of protection regardless of age. Two of the Pillar’s 20 principles directly concern OSH:

  • the right to safe, healthy well-adapted workplaces
  • the right to a healthy work-life balance.

Therefore, the Pillar brings high-level support for EU-OSHA’s work. Clearly, the Agency has an important role to play in supporting the Pillar’s values and putting its principles into practice. Two areas of EU-OSHA’s work are especially important:

In fact, all of the Agency’s work contributes in some way to making Europe’s workplaces safer and healthier and working lives more sustainable — thereby delivering the rights laid down in the Pillar.

And so, in 2019, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first piece of EU OSH legislation — the Framework Directive — which gave workers equal protection across the region. At the same time, EU-OSHA looks forward to giving practical support to the European Pillar of Social Rights and improving the protection of workers in Europe. Such recognition of the value of its work gives the Agency a new impetus to keep working with its partners to make Europe a safer and healthier place to work.