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Adapt health and safety at work to changing times, S&Ds tell Commission


28 Jun 2021


Social Europe & Jobs

The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament welcome the Occupational Safety and Health Strategic Framework presented today by the EU Commissioner for jobs and social affairs, Nicolas Schmit, which they have been urgently calling for since before the pandemic. However, there is still room for improvement.

Agnes Jongerius, S&D MEP and spokesperson on employment and social affairs, said:

“We must urgently update our rules for health and safety at work to meet the new demands of changing times. The Covid-19 crisis has really driven home the lesson that we must prepare for future pandemics to better protect workers. Frontline and essential workers put their health and lives on the line to keep our societies afloat. The least we owe them is to draw the right lessons from the crisis to better protect them in the future and now support them dealing with the mental toll the pandemic has taken on many of them. This is why we have been calling for a directive on mental health, which would recognise anxiety, depression and burnout as occupational diseases, as well as a directive on musculoskeletal disorders, conditions which also affect many working at home.

“More than one in three Europeans are currently working from home and some EU countries are about to introduce the right to home office. Working from home brings greater flexibility and reduces the carbon footprint, but also blurs the boundaries of work and private life at a high human cost. Workers deserve the ‘right to disconnect’, so we urge the Commission to present these legislative proposals without delay.

“It is so easy, with one click you can have food delivered to your door, a car take you somewhere or a cleaner tidy your home. Yet, some people are paying a very high price for this convenience. We want platform workers to be considered as employees with full social and workers’ rights – and this includes health and safety rules at work. There should be no exemption, for anybody, when it comes to health and safety. We are also disappointed that the Commission has not yet proposed anything to improve the situation for mobile workers, especially the seasonal ones, who all too often are exposed to unhealthy and unsafe living and working conditions. If we don’t step in to protect some of the most vulnerable people in the economy today, we risk precarious work spreading into other sectors tomorrow.

“Zero deaths at work by 2030 is our goal. No job is worth dying for. To achieve this goal, the Commission must also step up its work on protecting workers against exposure to carcinogens by reviewing the limit value of asbestos and adding 25 additional substances to the Carcinogens Directive by 2024 at the latest. That would account for 50 carcinogens in total and cover 80% of all exposure at work. We also urge the Commission to step up their efforts in protecting workers from substances harmful to reproduction and very dangerous medicines that nurses handle to treat patients with cancer.”