Looking back, looking forward

Dr Christa Sedlatschek

These are interesting times for occupational safety and health in Europe. When organisations of all sizes are questioning its value, and when budgets for health and safety are coming under pressure, in some of the biggest institutions in the EU, as well as the smallest.

We at the Agency have been part of this process. With our annual report for 2012 we have been looking back at our achievements over the last year, but we have also been looking forward, and thinking about what we are likely to face in the years ahead. We are starting to develop a new strategic programme for our work, as we face up to new challenges in workplace safety and health.
Challenges like the increasing number of older workers in Europe, and the implications for occupational safety and health (OSH).

And then there are the hard economic times that most of Europe is currently enduring, which have led to widespread cuts in OSH-related budgets.

Now, in our annual report we can point to some significant Agency achievements during 2012, including the launch of the new Healthy Workplaces Campaign, entitled ‘Working together for risk prevention’. Our Healthy Workplaces Campaigns are now the biggest workplace health and safety campaigns in the world, and this campaign has seen the involvement of a record number of partners, including many who have never been involved in our campaigns before.

We’re very proud, too, of our flagship Foresight project, which anticipates longer-term workplace risks (first in relation to ‘green’ jobs), and which we completed last year. Our European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) project, too, is going from strength to strength, and giving us a real-time picture of how some important workplace risks are being managed in Europe. The conclusions of the ESENER survey will help to shape the forthcoming Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2014–15, which will make available practical tools for dealing with psychosocial risks.

But through our annual report we are also making a wider point, about the importance of good OSH for businesses of all sizes. Smart companies already know the importance, in tough times, of maintaining their levels of support for workplace health and safety: eventually we will see an improvement in the economic situation, and then these businesses will need healthy, qualified people working in them.

We are continuing to make the business case for OSH in these difficult times – the fact that devoting time and resources to OSH is an investment, and that good OSH is good for business.