Each year in the European Union, 167,000 deaths are attributable to work-related accidents or illnesses, and the number of occupational accidents which result in over three days off work is estimated at 7 million.
Small and medium businesses feature prominently here, as they alone represent 82% of the total number of occupational accidents and 90% of the total number of fatal accidents. The construction, farming, transportation and health industries are among the sectors most affected.
Apart from the sometimes tragic individual consequences, the loss of earnings to employees and employers is considerable. The loss of income linked to work absences in fact costs European workers around a billion euros a year. As for employers, they have to bear the costs associated with sickness benefit, the replacement of absent staff and a loss of productivity, a good part of which is not covered by insurance.
Work-related illnesses and accidents are thus a heavy burden for the entire European economy.
Improving workers’ health and safety is therefore a key element of the objectives in the area of growth and employment for the European Union. Improving health and safety at work is in effect supporting the growth and competitivity of each business, and therefore of the whole European Union.
This is just what the campaign by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) is about, concerning risk assessment within every business. Indeed, assessment means raising awareness and bringing about accountability in employers in dealing with the possible dangers present in their businesses. While assessment is a simple approach that requires no special skills, what is at stake is considerable: it represents the first step in an occupational illness and accident prevention policy within each business. This campaign is an integral part of a much wider approach by the European Commission: a five-year strategy which is aiming for a 25% reduction in occupational accidents by 2012. Interviews: Doctor Pascal HUYGHE, occupational health doctor – MSA (farmers’ mutual insurance fund), Département du Nord, France
Géry DECOCK, farmer - Nomain - France
Viviane DECOCK, farmer’s wife - employee
Katharina VON SCHNURBEIN, spokesperson - Employment and Social Affairs – European Commission
Agnieszka MŁODZKA-STYBEL, engineer – Centralny Instytut Ochrony Pracy – Focal Point OSHA
Krzysztof KOWALIK, director, Prevention and Promotion Department- National Labour Inspectorate
Felix WALTERS,director of a power station
Ulrich TIX, occupational safety inspector – BGFE (German professional association of precision mechanics and electro-technology) Visit the site: www.mostra.com