09/05/2008

Reducing work-related accidents and illness through better risk assessment

Every year 5,720 people die in the European Union as a consequence of
work-related accidents, according to EUROSTAT figures. Besides that, the
International Labour Organisation estimates that an additional 159,500 workers
in the EU die every year from occupational diseases. Taking both figures into
consideration, it is estimated that every three-and-a-half minutes somebody in
the EU dies from work-related causes.

Most of these accidents and diseases are preventable, and the first step in
preventing them is risk assessment. That is the message of Healthy Workplaces.
Good for you. Good for business., the Europe-wide information campaign on risk
assessment, launched by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
(EU-OSHA). The campaign focuses especially on high-risk sectors such as
construction, healthcare and agriculture, and on the needs of small and
medium-sized enterprises. It will run over two years (2008-09).

Under EU law, all employers in the EU are required to carry out risk
assessments. Risk assessment helps employers understand the action they need to
take to improve workplace health and safety.

Every occupational accident and disease is one too many, says Vladimr pidla,
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Even if
they dont result in fatalities, the consequences are unacceptable, both for the
people concerned and for the economy. Every year, million of workers in the EU
are involved in accidents which force them to stay at home for at least three
working days at an enormous cost to the economy. Risk assessment is the key to
reducing these figures. But it can only be the first step implementation must
follow.

The Healthy Workplaces campaign highlights the necessity for risk assessment in
line with the Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work (20072012),
which aims to cut work-related accidents over this period by a quarter across
the EU.

According to EU-OSHA Director Jukka Takala, with the Healthy Workplaces
campaign we want to encourage enterprises to carry out risk assessment
properly, involving everyone in the workplace. We want to promote good practice
that can be adapted to other workplaces. Takala also highlights the key
messages of the campaign: First, risk assessment is not necessarily
complicated, bureaucratic or a task only for experts. This is a mistaken belief
that is particularly common among SMEs. But there are plenty of tools available
(such as checklists) that help in the process, and EU-OSHA promotes a simple
five-step approach. Secondly, proper risk assessment also brings a number of
business benefits, because making workplaces safer and healthier helps to
reduce absenteeism and insurance costs, and increases worker motivation and
productivity.

Risk assessment ultimately also helps to reduce the burden on national health
care systems, says Romana Tomc, Slovenian State Secretary of Labour, Family and
Social Affairs. The present and upcoming EU Presidencies and the EU social
partners all strongly support the campaign, as do the focal points usually the
national occupational safety and health authorities in all 27 Member States.
This shows that occupational safety and health at work is a key issue for the
European social model", she adds.


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AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at work