Latest update: 03/05/2021

Directive 89/391/EEC - OSH "Framework Directive"

of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work - "Framework Directive"


The aim of this Directive is to introduce measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. It applies to all sectors of activity, both public and private, except for specific public service activities, such as the armed forces, the police or certain civil protection services.

It is of fundamental importance as it the basic safety and health legal act which lays down general principles concerning the prevention and protection of workers against occupational accidents and diseases. It contains principles concerning the prevention of risks, the protection of safety and health, the assessment of risks, the elimination of risks and accident factors, the informing, consultation and balanced participation and training of workers and their representatives.

On the basis of this "Framework Directive" a series of individual directives were adopted. The Framework Directive with its general principles continues to apply in full to all the areas covered by the individual directives, but where individual directives contain more stringent and/or specific provisions, these special provisions of individual directives prevail.


Definition of the terms “worker”, “employer”, “workers' representative with specific responsibility for the safety and health of workers” and “prevention”.


The Framework Directive contains basic obligations for employers and workers. Nevertheless, the workers' obligations shall not affect the principle of the responsibility of the employer.

It is the employer's obligation to ensure the safety and health of workers in every aspect related to work and he may not impose financial costs to the workers to achieve this aim. Alike, where an employer enlists competent external services or persons, this shall not discharge him from his responsibilities in this area.

The general principles of prevention listed in the directive are the following:

  • avoiding risks
  • evaluating the risks
  • combating the risks at source
  • adapting the work to the individual
  • adapting to technical progress
  • replacing the dangerous by the non- or the less dangerous
  • developing a coherent overall prevention policy
  • prioritizing collective protective measures (over individual protective measures)
  • giving appropriate instructions to the workers

Employers’ and workers' obligations

The employer shall:

  • evaluate all the risks to the safety and health of workers, inter alia in the choice of work equipment, the chemical substances or preparations used, and the fitting-out of work places  
  • implement measures which assure an improvement in the level of protection afforded to workers and are integrated into all the activities of the undertaking and/or establishment at all hierarchical levels
  • take into consideration the worker's capabilities as regards health and safety when he entrusts tasks to workers;  
  • consult workers on introduction of new technologies;
    designate worker(s) to carry out activities related to the protection and prevention of occupational risks.
  • take the necessary measures for first aid, fire-fighting, evacuation of workers and action required in the event of serious and imminent danger
  • keep a list of occupational accidents and draw up and draw up, for the responsible authorities reports on occupational accidents suffered by his workers
  • inform and consult workers and allow them to take part in discussions on all questions relating to safety and health at work;
  • ensure that each worker receives adequate safety and health training

 The worker shall:

  • make correct use of machinery, apparatus, tools, dangerous substances, transport equipment, other means of production and personal protective equipment
  • immediately inform the employer of any work situation presenting a serious and immediate danger and of any shortcomings in the protection arrangements
  • cooperate with the employer in fulfilling any requirements imposed for the protection of health and safety and in enabling him to ensure that the working environment and working conditions are safe and pose no risks.

Health surveillance should be provided for workers according to national systems. Particularly sensitive risk groups must be protected against the dangers which specifically affect them.


The Annex of the Directive lists some of the areas where individual directives were adopted.

Read the full text of the consolidated version of the Directive (including later amendments)

Read the full text of the original Directive (without amendments)

National laws implementing this Directive

Further information on this topic

See also further European documents on the topic:

European Commission's guidance on risk assessment at work (1996)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions on the practical implementation of the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Directives 89/391 (Framework), 89/654 (Workplaces), 89/655 (Work Equipment), 89/656 (Personal Protective Equipment), 90/269 (Manual Handling of Loads) and 90/270 (Display Screen Equipment) (2004)

Enforcement of fundamental workers’ rights (2012)

EMEX guidance on fostering OSH culture in small businesses (2015)

Evaluation of the Practical Implementation of the EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Directives in EU Member States - Directive on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (2017)