07/05/2013

The sun did not shine but the welcome was warm!

Dr Christa Sedlatschek

It is always a pleasure to welcome Members of the European Parliament to visit our Bilbao headquarters.  On 2 and 3 May, we were delighted to have three MEPs with us for a study visit.  Two of them – Edith Bauer (EPP, Slovakia) and Jutta Steinruck (S & D, Germany) were return visitors.  For the very first time, they were accompanied by the Chair of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, Pervenche Berès (S & D) from France.  The study visit was packed with presentations, interspersed with stimulating debate.  We took the opportunity to present our flagship projects such as the ESENER survey, the Online Interactive Risk Assessment tool (OiRA), our campaigns and selected projects such as the development of the business case for occupational health and safety and the future of green jobs.  In particular, we were delighted to have the opportunity to present them with a first overview of plans for the big Older Workers’ project, which will run for two years and which is included in our work programme exactly because of direct action by the European Parliament to fund a pilot project in this area.  We got interesting advice from the MEPs on what they needed in their daily work and we were able to fine-tune some of our plans, particularly in the area of Older Workers, to meet these needs. 

It was heartening and encouraging to see the level of support for workplace health and safety in general and for EU-OSHA in particular.  We are so appreciative of the continued interest shown by the European Parliament in the activities of the Agency.   Sometimes, there is pressure on our public representatives to adopt ill-informed and populist views  – such as the notion that workplace health and safety is an unnecessary expense.  Clearly, our visitors understood the persuasive economic arguments for doing the exact opposite - taking occupational safety and health very seriously.  And they appreciated the benefits of it for workers and companies alike.  We really welcomed the chance to discuss our own strategy for the future work of the Agency with the MEPs and their feedback was invaluable.  I think I can speak on behalf of all our staff when I say that we were impressed that the MEPs took so much time out of their busy agendas to visit us and to spend so many intense hours locked in debate and exchange.  There was no time for any sightseeing – and it sure rained a lot outside!

The MEPs were accompanied by Sabine Magnano, Head of the Employment Secretariat in the European Parliament.  Sabine does sterling work in the background to serve the needs of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee and its members.  She is a good friend to the Agency and to our Brussels Liaison Office, always facilitating our requests for meetings and securing slots in the committee’s busy schedule.  I am grateful to her and to the visiting MEPs for their enthusiasm and ideas.  I look forward to increasing collaboration in the future.  

Maybe the next time we can organize some sun…