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Commission adopts fourth Community programme for health and safety at work

On the initiative of Mr Padraig Flynn, European Commissioner responsible for Employment and Social Affairs, the Commission has adopted a proposal for a fourth Community programme concerning safety, hygiene and health at work. Mr Flynn welcomed the adoption of the programme an...

On the initiative of Mr Padraig Flynn, European Commissioner responsible for Employment and Social Affairs, the Commission has adopted a proposal for a fourth Community programme concerning safety, hygiene and health at work. Mr Flynn welcomed the adoption of the programme and explained that "work accidents continue to account for huge human and economic losses. The objective of the Commission's policy in the field of safety and health at work over the past thirty years has been to reduce to a minimum both work accidents and occupational diseases. However, despite the considerable progress made, both the number of work accidents and the incidence of occupational diseases are too high. About eight thousand workers die each year in the EU as a result of work accidents. A further 10 million workers are the victims of work accidents or occupational diseases. This entails a huge cost in terms of human suffering. However, it also represents a huge cost in economic terms. The direct costs alone are estimated by the Commission at ECU 27 billion in 1992. This acts as an impediment to increased growth in output and employment". The focus of the new programme has been broadened to provide a much greater emphasis on information. This is to ensure that the substantial body of EU health and safety legislation in place is correctly and effectively communicated and that the particular needs of SMEs are accommodated. In this respect a new initiative will be launched aimed specifically at SMEs. This programme, Safety Actions for Europe (SAFE), will use best practices as a standard for the development of a work environment that is safe, productive and competitive. Commissioner Flynn emphasized that better health and safety standards strengthen the competitiveness of enterprises - particularly SMEs: "Efficient health and safety practices reduce sickness and accident costs. Furthermore, a workforce which is convinced that serious efforts have been made to protect its safety will respond with improved productivity". The Commissioner emphasized that EU legislation on health and safety must be transposed accurately and on time into national legislation. It must also be enforced effectively and impartially in all Member States. If this is not done, the Commission will initiate infringement proceedings. EU legislation will be greatly assisted by the Commission's decision to place the "Group of Senior Labour Inspectors" on a formal footing. The Committee, made up of the labour inspection services of the Member States, will provide the Commission with opinions on problems relating to the enforcement by the Member States of Community law on health and safety at work. The Commission has also decided to establish a scientific committee to provide expert advice on occupational exposure limits for chemical agents.

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