How can successful prevention strategies at EU level take account of different factors at national level?
News release - Sep 19, 2013
The EU has a clear role to play in workplace health and safety, stresses a report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). The report helps also to explain why the European Framework Directive 89/391/EEC, which aims to provide a common level of protection to workers in all Member States, is put into practice in different ways across the EU.
A follow-up study to the Enterprise survey on new and emerging risks (ESENER), the report, titled ‘Analysis of the determinants of workplace occupational safety and health practice in a selection of EU Member States’, provides a detailed insight into how environmental factors shape approaches to OSH management.
Aside from five broad categories of determinants identified, the report reveals that change is the single most common environmental context affecting how legislation is translated into practice across Europe. Differences between European working environments are significant and are dependent on wider contextual factors, such as existing national infrastructures and processes already in place.
EU-OSHA’s Director, Dr Christa Sedlatschek, stresses the importance of such findings: ‘It is essential that we recognise that every organisation operates within a specific environment that affects how OSH is managed in practice. Consequently, we cannot expect legislation to be put into practice in the workplace in the same way across different Member States. EU policymakers need to be sensitive to these differences when contemplating future strategies.’
The findings of the project, along with ESENER data, suggest that EU requirements result in different practices at workplace level across Member States. The five key determinants of workplace OSH practice are:
- EU and supranational influences (e.g. legislation, social partner agreements, strategies, etc.);
- national governance and regulation, and the OSH system;
- labour relations, trade unions and employer’s organisation and processes;
- economic restructuring; and
- other related systems (e.g. social welfare, health, etc.).
The effect of the first of these determinants, the EU, is dependent on the consequences of the other, country-specific, key determinants. Consequently, the impact to date of EU policy varies significantly between countries.
What is shared between countries is a dynamic environmental context that has seen rapid change in recent decades, brought about by, for example, globalisation and labour market restructuring, budgetary deficits and a decline in unionisation.
The report focused on ESENER’s main areas of interest – OSH management; psychosocial risk management; and the involvement of workers and their representatives in these two areas – and analysed how the environment affects these three spheres.
Factors that were found to influence the level of OSH management in a country included:
- whether there is a history of a process-based participatory approach to OSH management;
- the perceived costs of implementation and legislative compliance;
- the support infrastructure available; and
- the wider political and economic climate.
Psychosocial risk management appeared as an ‘advanced subset’ of OSH management more generally, and organisations with good management of OSH were also found to manage psychosocial risks well.
However, the research demonstrates a clear need for a robust prevention strategy on workplace safety and health that can be applied across national boundaries. Such a strategy would help to steer national efforts towards improving OSH practice.
Notes to editors
1. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) contributes to making Europe a safer, healthier and more productive place to work. The Agency researches, develops, and distributes reliable, balanced, and impartial safety and health information and organises pan-European awareness raising campaigns. Set up by the European Union in 1996 and based in Bilbao, Spain, the Agency brings together representatives from the European Commission, Member State governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations, as well as leading experts in each of the EU-28 Member States and beyond.
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