Throughout 2019, EU-OSHA celebrates its 25th anniversary, reflecting on its success in building a pan-European network of partners and its commitment to making workplaces safer, healthier and more productive for the people of Europe. It is a perfect opportunity to recognise the importance of one particular group of people and one particular place: EU-OSHA’s staff and the city it calls home.
Since 1996, EU-OSHA has made its home in the vibrant city of Bilbao. An industrial powerhouse in the 19th and 20th centuries, Bilbao, in common with many industrialised areas, experienced a deep recession when heavy industry declined. However, the city authorities saw a bright future for Bilbao and by the 1990s were investing heavily in regenerating abandoned industrial areas and attracting culture and tourism. During its time in the city, EU-OSHA has witnessed the opening of the iconic Guggenheim Museum, the award in 2010 to Bilbao City Hall of the inaugural Lee Kuan World City Prize and the naming of Bilbao as European City of the Year at the 2018 Urbanism Awards.
© EU-OSHA / David Tijero
In EU circles, EU-OSHA has become known as ‘the Bilbao Agency’ — a nickname recognising the special and mutually beneficial relationship between city and organisation. Not surprisingly, EU-OSHA maintains good relations with the Bilbao authorities. It also cooperates with Osalan, the Basque authority for occupational safety and health (OSH).
EU-OSHA’s greatest asset — its staff
EU-OSHA has no doubt that its single greatest asset is its highly skilled and committed staff. All staff members are experts in their own fields: OSH, communications, information technology, finance, human resources, administration and networking. Currently representing 16 EU Member States, they embody EU-OSHA’s European culture.
“The extremely competent and well-motivated staff. Having good staff at every level and a complete mix of European nationalities creates a strong, ‘European’ culture. EU-OSHA was like a family to me.”
Dr Jukka Takala, former EU-OSHA Director
In turn, EU-OSHA looks after its staff, providing the high-quality working conditions for which it campaigns across Europe. These include ergonomic work stations and equipment and implementing a stress prevention policy and plan, addressing both physical and mental OSH.
© EU-OSHA Photo Competition 2011 / Frederic Santiago
EU-OSHA aims for the best working conditions in compliance with the OSH Framework Directive both for its own employees and those of its contractors. The Agency is also committed to reducing its ‘environmental footprint’ by, for example, installing a modern, energy-efficient lighting and electricity system, reducing and recycling office waste, using eco-friendly cleaning products and employing contractors that share its values.
When asked what is or was the best thing about working with EU-OSHA, current and former staff and partners offered the same response: their colleagues.
“My colleagues, including the highly professional EU-OSHA staff … Going to Bilbao for me is like going home … I learn a lot from my colleagues.”
Károly György, Vice-chair of EU-OSHA’s Governing Board
In EU-OSHA’s 25 years, the staff and the city of Bilbao have been at the heart of the Agency’s success. These 25th anniversary celebrations are a tribute to the people — past and present — whose skills, passion and enthusiasm have made EU-OSHA the organisation that it is today and who have worked in partnership for a safe and healthy Europe.