20 August 2013

The European Commission's public consultation on a new EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) policy framework is closing on 26 August 2013.

The consultation follows the publication of the results of the Evaluation of the European Strategy on Safety and Health at Work 2007 – 2012, published in May 2013. That Evaluation Report identified a number of challenges and trends which would affect safety at work in the coming years including:

  • a failure to reduce occupational diseases during the Strategy Period meaning that significant threats to health remain (the report noted that there was a reduction in occupational accidents)
  • changing and emerging risks associated with new technology and practices which have to be identified and managed (examples included hazards from nanotechnology and electromagnetic fields)
  • changing risks associated with an aging worker population including catering for the risks associated with older workers and the need to ensure that workplaces are safe so that workers reach their later working years healthy and active
  • the need to implement effectively, OSH policies in SMEs where resource and expertise in such issues cannot be expected to be as high as in largescale employers.

In light of these findings and the operation of safety law in different member states, the consultation questions some fundamental aspects of how safety legislation is and should be developed in the future. Some of the questions highlight that the EU appreciates tensions for smaller businesses in trying to keep up with the regulatory requirements from Europe. Particularly, the European Commission questions:

  • Is it necessary to continue co-ordinating policies at an EU level, or is national action sufficient?
  • Is there a need for a new EU OSH Strategy, or should other methods and measures be considered?
  • What measures would you suggest to reduce the regulatory burden on SME's and micro-enterprises, including reducing compliance costs and administrative burdens, while ensuring a high level of compliance of OSH legislation?

The Commission also queries whether the current body of existing legislation should be simplified.

In principle therefore all the European legislation is potentially up for change, either by way of expansion or of reduction. However, there is currently no definite indication that any of the directives will be repealed or replaced and no indication of timings. For now, the Commission is simply gathering opinions.

The Commission are now looking for insights and contributions from the public to identify current and future challenges in the occupational health and safety area.

The consultation period ends on 26 August 2013 and is open to all citizens and organisations across the EU. To share your view, visit the European Commission website

Ann Metherall leads Burges Salmon's specialist Health and Safety law team. Hannah Whittell is a solicitor in the Health and Safety team.

Key contact

Ann Metherall

Ann Metherall Partner

  • Head of Dispute Resolution
  • Head of Health and Safety
  • Transport

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