Working in partnership: key to EU-OSHA’s success

Over the past 25 years, EU-OSHA has established, strengthened and worked in close collaboration with an extensive network of partners. Through this network, the Agency has successfully connected with workplaces to provide authoritative occupational safety and health (OSH) information and practical tools. Today, it works not only with all Member States and European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries, but also with candidate and potential candidate countries to raise awareness of workplace risks and promote improvements in OSH.

EU-OSHA’s key partners include:

The Management Board includes representatives from governments and employers’ and employees’ organisations from each Member State. This tripartite approach ensures that the views of all stakeholders are represented in decision-making and has been instrumental in the success of the Agency.

Each Member State must nominate a national focal point — usually a national competent authority — which provides national data that the Agency uses to inform policy-makers. However, the relationship between EU-OSHA and its focal points is by no means one-sided. In return, EU-OSHA supports the individual OSH efforts of its focal points and provides them with reliable, up-to-date information. For example:

  • The Agency’s Focal Point Assistance Tool (FAST) supports them in the organisation of events and activities at national level.
  • EU-OSHA translates materials that are relevant for its focal points’ national OSH efforts.

The task of building a national focal point network was instigated in 1997 with the then 15 Member States of the EU. The major expansion of the EU in 2004, when 10 countries joined the existing 15, posed a new challenge for EU-OSHA and its promotion of a risk prevention culture. To ensure consistently high OSH standards across all Member States, the Agency created an enlargement plan that aimed to:

  • adapt existing materials to the needs of new Member States
  • raise awareness of the importance of OSH among employers, workers and social partners.

An effective network of national focal points and other partners was instrumental in the execution of this plan.

Thanks to effective cooperation, which has strengthened over the years, EU-OSHA’s network currently boasts 39 national focal points.

The Agency has proved that the concept on which it was based — a tripartite agency, with a network of focal points and partners in Member States and partner countries — was an effective one. This concept resulted in new activities, new ways of working together, and it was instrumental in building a common understanding of where we want to go in protecting workers.

Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, former EU-OSHA Director

The Agency also has a long-standing collaboration with the EEN, which now comprises around 600 partner organisations. This has significantly enhanced the Agency’s ability to reach out to many small businesses through jointly organised activities and events, and the widespread dissemination of EU-OSHA’s publications and guidance materials.

EU-OSHA’s success is further dependent on strong relationships with its other partners, including the European Commission and European Parliament, social partners and campaign partners. EU-OSHA has spent more than 10 years actively building a substantial portfolio of campaign partners: recent campaigns have seen the commitment of over 100 official campaign partners and more than 30 media partners. This has been fundamental to the effective execution of the Agency’s flagship Healthy Workplaces Campaigns.

In 2019, it’s now time to reflect on and acknowledge the contribution that this extensive network has made to 25 years of effectively disseminating OSH information to workplaces throughout Europe.