Europe: 28 April – International Workers Memorial Day – New health and safety laws now!

3,515 people died in reported accidents at work in the EU in 2012 – the last time the EU collected the statistics. 100,000 die in the EU every year from work-related cancers.

The EU has done very little in recent years to strengthen the protection of workers from workplace diseases and injuries, despite the fact that new technology and innovation has created, and medical research has identified, new risks.

Workers need better protection,” said Esther Lynch, ETUC Confederal Secretary. “New laws are needed now.

The most efficient and effective way to protect workers from workplace disease and injury is through laws at EU and national level. Workers’ health protection should not be deregulated or privatised. Strong laws should be backed up by strong enforcement and a strong system of workplace health and safety representatives.”

The ETUC calls for new health and safety laws to be brought in urgently, to protect workers by

  • Implementing binding occupational exposure limits for at least 50 cancer-causing substances, instead of the current 5, in 2016 instead of delaying until 2020;
  • Putting forward new regulations to deal with
– nanoparticles;
– psycho-social risks including stress, violence and harassment;
– neck, back and elbow pain.
One Directive – on carcinogens and mutagens – has been under review by the EU for some 12 years without any change being made! Following trade union pressure the European Commission has promised progress this year on protecting workers from cancer. However, the European Commission is continuing to ignore demands from trade unions, the European Parliament and member states for legislation on nanomaterials*.

Concerns about the ‘compliance costs’ of regulation for business ignore the costs to workers and their families,” added Lynch, “and should not stop action to prevent workplace accidents and disease.

Evidence of the need for action, in addition to the horrific death toll, is clear:

  • Between 2010 and 2015 there has been a rise in the percentage of workers handling chemicals and infectious materials.**
  • Half of all workers consider work-related stress to be common in their workplace.***
  • More than 2 in 5 workers work in painful or tiring positions for a quarter or more of their working time.**
The ETUC is the voice of workers and represents 45 million members from 89 trade union organisations in 39 European countries, plus 10 European Trade Union Federations.
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Copyright © 2016 European Trade Union Confederation / Confédération européenne des syndicats, All rights reserved.

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