The European Year of Citizens 2013, EU-OSHA and what it means for you

Dr Christa Sedlatschek

The European Year of Citizens 2013 is officially under way, ceremonially launched by EU leaders on 10 January in Dublin, Ireland. Every year, the EU declares a particular issue on which the year will focus. This year is focused on the rights of every EU citizen, and is concerned with raising awareness about these rights so that individuals, organisations, governments and the EU as a whole can feel the benefits that these rights of citizenship can bring. All kinds of events, such as conferences and debates, as well as other opportunities for dialogue (both online and offline) are taking place throughout the year. At EU-OSHA we are keen to be part of this dialogue and to engage in this Year of Citizens with you.

The reason for this year’s focus is partly a result of the 2010 EU Citizenship Report, which found that many individuals are not fully aware of their rights as citizens. Consequently, many citizens are missing out on the benefits that come with these rights. For EU-OSHA, this year is an opportunity to raise awareness of EU rights concerning occupational safety and health. We believe that having a healthy workplace is an important right, and that by being better informed about their rights employers and workers will be better equipped to improve working conditions.

The 2010 Report also found that many citizens are unaware of their right to live and work anywhere within the EU. This is an important right that comes with EU citizenship, and one that we hope will help break down the barriers preventing the adoption of good practice in occupational safety and health across the EU. Similarly, just as all citizens have the right to work anywhere in the EU, all EU Member States should aim for the same high standards of safety and health in the workplace. Consequently, we aim to raise awareness about the importance of all EU citizens and organisations in different industry sectors across the EU working together. By sharing best practice across Member States and recognising that all EU citizens are entitled to the same high standards of occupational safety and health, working standards across all of the EU can be improved.

Working together means that all of us—governments, employers and workers—must contribute to improving working conditions. Leadership alone is not enough to keep a workplace safe and healthy. This applies just as much to the smallest business as it does to the largest. EU-OSHA has already been emphasising the importance of working together through its Healthy Workplaces campaign. The current campaign is concerned with risk prevention—an important issue that EU-OSHA will continue to campaign on in this Year of Citizens.