16 January 2017

It is 25 years since the first European directives on health and safety were published and the European Commission has decided that it is time for "a clear action plan" for occupational safety and health in the workplace of the 21st century.

Its new initiative aims to better protect workers against work-related cancer, to help businesses, and particularly smaller firms, in their efforts to comply with the existing legislative framework while putting the focus more on results and less on paperwork.

The Commission will now bring forward proposals to set exposure limits or other measures for another seven cancer-causing chemicals. Full details can be found at http://bit.ly/2ifjdLd.

As a third of micro firms do not assess workplace risks, a new guidance paper is being made available for employers with practical tips aimed at facilitating their risk assessment and at making it more effective.

Available at http://bit.ly/2iiRkFk, this includes advice on how to deal with rapidly increasing occupational safety and health (OSH) issues such as psychosocial, ergonomic or ageing related-risks.

The Commission has also promised to work with Member States over the next two years to remove or update outdated rules in this area. This is part of its ongoing work to examine the Health and Safety Framework Directive, and its 23 "Daughter Directives", to see if they are still relevant in the modern workplace.

Although, since 2008, the number of workers in the EU who died in an accident at work has dropped by almost a quarter, the Commission points out that about 160,000 Europeans die from work-related illnesses every year so keeping workers safe and healthy by updating European standards remains a top priority.