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Bring health and safety rules into the 21st century to better protect European workers, S&Ds demand from EU Commission


09 Mar 2022


Health & Consumers

Today, the European Parliament will debate and vote the Vind report on health and safety at work. The Socialists and Democrats have been spearheading ‘vision zero’ to ensure that no more workers die from work-related illnesses, including cancer, accidents and psychosocial risks. As working from home has become daily life for millions of Europeans, the EU must up-date its health and safety rules to take into account new risks for health and mental well-being.

Marianne Vind, S&D MEP responsible for health and safety at work, said:

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we all become more mindful about mental health. With more than one in three Europeans working from home, the boundaries between private life and work have become blurred. The pressure to be always online and always reachable is exhausting millions of Europeans. The cost is high: muscular and eye illnesses, depression and burnout. We call for a Directive on psychosocial risks and wellbeing at work, the right to disconnect, preventing musculoskeletal disorders and rheumatic diseases, as well as minimum standards for telework.

“Current health and safety rules must be fit for pandemic situations and be better prepared for health crises in all workplaces, which is why the Biological Agents Directive must be revised. It is high time to bring workers’ rights into the 21st century.”

Agnes Jongerius, S&D spokesperson for employment and social rights, said:

“Our goal is to reach zero work-related deaths. To achieve this goal, the European Commission must also step up its work on the protection of workers against exposure to carcinogens by adding 25 additional substances to the Carcinogens Directive. That would account for 50 carcinogens in total and cover 80% of all exposure at work.

“Around one hundred thousand Europeans die every year from cancer because they were exposed to toxic substances at work. Like the firefighter exposed to benzene who develops leukaemia, or the automotive worker handling nickel, which can cause lung cancer. Our group is leading the campaign to protect workers from exposure to dangerous substances.  No job is worth dying for.”

Note to the editor:

On 28 June 2021, the European Commission published a long-awaited communication on the ‘EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027 – Occupational safety and health in a changing world of work’. It focuses on three crosscutting key objectives for the coming years - anticipating and managing change in the new world of work brought about by green, digital and demographic transitions; improving prevention of workplace accidents and illnesses; and increasing preparedness for any potential future health crises. The implementation of these three objectives will be underpinned by social dialogue, strengthening of the evidence base, strengthening of enforcement, awareness, and funding.