New EU Strategy for Safety and Health
Five year period from 2007 to 2012
The positive effect of the previous Community Strategy 2002-2006 was a decrease of the rate of fatal accidents at work in the EU-15 by 17%, while the rate of workplace accidents leading to absences of more than three days has fallen by 20%.

"Occupational illness and accidents at work are a heavy burden on both workers and employers in Europe. Every year there are 4 million accidents at work which represent enormous economic costs for the European economy. A considerable share of these costs falls upon social security systems and public finances," said Vladimír Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. "Improving the health and safety of workers is key to the EU's Growth and Jobs agenda. By bolstering productivity and quality at work, we will boost European growth and competitiveness."

| Bild: | Although there have been major advances over the past five years, there is still considerable room for improvement. The costs of accidents at work and work-related ill health do not fall equally on all players. Loss of income due to absence from work costs European workers around EUR 1 billion a year. Employers face costs linked to sick pay, replacement of absent workers and loss of productivity – many of which are not covered by insurance.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are particularly exposed, accounting for 82% of all occupational injuries and 90% of all fatal accidents. Sectors such as construction, agriculture, transport and health all present higher than average risks of accidents at work, while young workers, migrants, older workers and those with insecure working conditions are disproportionately affected.

Specific illnesses are on the rise, including musculoskeletal diseases – such as back pain, joint injuries and repetitive strain injuries – and illnesses caused by psychological strain.

Objectives of the Community strategy 2007-2012

The European Commission has set itself an ambitious overall objective: to reduce by 25% the total incidence rate of accidents at work per 100 000 workers in the EU 27 for the period 2007-2012.
In order to achieve this goal, the following main instruments are proposed:
  1. guarantee the proper implementation of EU legislation;
  2. support SMEs in the implementation of the legislation in force;
  3. adapt the legal framework to changes in the workplace and simplify it, particularly in view of SMEs;
  4. promote the development and implementation of national strategies;
  5. encourage changes in the behaviour of workers and encourage their employers to adopt health-focused approaches;
  6. finalise the methods for identifying and evaluating new potential risks;
  7. improve the tracking of progress;
  8. promote health and safety at international level.

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