How do European enterprises manage OSH?

Eusebio Rial-Gonzalez

Would you like to know more about how occupational safety and health (OSH) is managed in your country’s workplaces – and across the whole of the EU, and beyond?  Do you know the reasons for companies to take prevention seriously – or what stops them from doing so? And how are workers’ representatives involved in OSH management?


Today, at the conference organised by the Spanish EU Presidency, we have launched the results of the Agency’s European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), which aims to answer those questions, and more. We interviewed 36,000 managers and worker representatives across the whole EU-27, plus Norway, Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey. They generously gave us their time to get a detailed account of how they manage OSH in their workplace.  It’s been a tremendous effort for an Agency of our size, but we think it has been worth it: the results provide the first comparable, pan-European picture of how OSH is managed in workplaces (in both the private and public sectors), in enterprises with as few as 10 employees.  

Why did we carry out this survey? Well, we have some good data from Eurostat and from Eurofound’s working conditions surveys about outcomes such as accidents (and less complete information on occupational diseases and ill-health), but we don’t know enough about what goes on between the regulations and policies at one end, and the impact on worker health at the other. We wanted to look into that black box, find out what really happens at workplaces with regard to the various elements laid down in the Framework Directive, and see what needs to be improved and how we can help managers and workers to improve risk prevention. We also hope that the ESENER data can help evaluate the impact of policy instruments, such as the current Community Strategy.


The survey also has a special focus on psychosocial issues because we wanted to know how these ‘emerging’ risks are actually being dealt with: we often read that companies are unsure about how to deal with stress, violence or harassment, so we wanted to know more about what they actually do, how they involve the workers (which is especially important for successfully tackling these risks), and what are the barriers to –and drivers for– better psychosocial prevention.

At the ESENER web feature, you will find the overview report, the summary in all EU languages, and an online mapping tool which you can use to look up the answers for most questions broken down by country, enterprise size and sector. Over the coming months we’ll be having national-level launches across many Member States with the crucial help of our focal points. If you are interested in analysing the data, the full dataset is available from the UK Data Archive.

Have a look at the publications and the online data, and let us know what you think: do any particular results surprise you? Are there any questions missing which you think we should have asked? We have already commissioned some in-depth analyses of the ESENER data, and we will be commissioning more reports later this year:  what do you think we should focus future analyses on?