The European Commission has launched a new initiative that aims to provide further protection for the health and safety of workers across Europe.
According to the Commission, the new initiative will help to better protect workers against work-related cancer, will help businesses, in particular SME's and micro-enterprises, meet existing legislative requirements, and will put a bigger focus on results and less on paperwork.
"Today we present a clear action plan for sound occupational safety and health at the workplace in the 21st century with rules that are clear, up-to-date and effectively applied on the ground,” said Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen.
“We also deliver on our commitment to fight work-related cancer, by addressing exposure to seven more cancer-causing chemicals which will improve protection of some four million workers in Europe,” she added. “We join forces with Member States and stakeholders to create a healthy and safe workplace for all."
The Commission describes the EU as a front-runner in high standards of worker protection. Since 2008, the number of workers who died in an accident at work dropped by almost one fourth, and the percentage of EU workers reporting at least one health problem caused or made worse by work decreased by nearly 10%.
However, the Commission acknowledges that much more still needs to be done. Around 160,000 Europeans are thought to die from illnesses related to their work every year. It therefore says that keeping workers safe and healthy in the workplace by safeguarding and updating the high European standards is a top priority.
The Commission has said it will take the following steps to follow up on its commitment to continue to improve occupational health and safety:
This announcement is the latest in a series of actions on worker safety. Last year, the Commission proposed a number of changes to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC), with the aim of limiting exposure to 13 cancer-causing chemicals at the workplace. This was projected to save 100,000 lives in the next 50 years.
Figures show that cancer is the main cause of work-related deaths in the EU. Around 53% of annual work-related deaths are due to cancer, compared to 28% for circulatory diseases and 6% for respiratory diseases.
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