This decrease paints a positive picture in creating awareness on the seriousness of enforcing Health and Safety at the work place, yet it is known fact that workers continue to face an objectionable number of work related injuries and illnesses, most of which are preventable.

In addition to human suffering, the costs due to work-related sick leave are unacceptably high in Malta as well as throughout each European Member State. In order to properly address this issue, the European Commission presented a new Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020. This takes into account the results of the evaluation and contributions from a wide range of representatives whose contributions were made during the major Conference on Working Conditions organised by the European Commission in Brussels on the 28th April 2014.

This Framework identifies key challenges and objectives for health and safety at work as preventing risks and promoting safer and healthier working conditions contributes to the well-being and health of workers. By doing so a company’s productivity and competitiveness will incalculably improve. It is a known fact that sound occupational health and safety rules add to improve the sustainability of social security systems and aid to address the long-term effects of demographic ageing.

This new Framework identifies three major health and safety at work challenges:

  • Improving the implementation record of Member States, in particular by enhancing the capacity of micro and small enterprises to put in place effective and efficient risk prevention measures (Simpler, effective and efficient solutions need to be put in place to take into account the situation of micro and small enterprises, and thus ensure effective protection of workers regardless of the size of workplace);
  • To improve the prevention of work related diseases by tackling new and emerging risks (while many technologies and innovations in work organizations have substantially improved, the well-being and working conditions of workers, effective prevention of work-related diseases necessitates the capability of anticipating potential negative effects of new technologies on workers health and safety);
  • Tackling demographic change (Successfully prolonging working careers depends strongly on appropriate adaptation of workplaces and work organization, including working time, workplace accessibility and workplace interventions targeted at older workers).

The Strategic Framework proposes to address these challenges with a range of actions under seven key strategic objectives:

  1. Consolidating national health and safety strategies through, for example policy coordination and mutual learning: reviewing of national OHSA strategies in the light of the new EU framework- MS in consultation with relevant representatives;
  2. Providing practical support to small and micro enterprises to help them better comply with health and safety rules (example: this could be done by promoting the exchange of good practice whereby SME’s will be supported by larger enterprises in the contractor-supplier-purchaser chain in order to improve OHS;
  3. Improving enforcement by Member States for example by evaluating the performance of national labour inspectorates (One of the ideas proposes by stakeholders is that labour inspections should be increased and inspectors should be specifically trained on emerging risks and new technologies);
  4. Simplifying existing legislation where appropriate to eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens, while preserving a high level of protection for workers’ health and safety (It has been discussed that the best way of doing this is by encouraging MS to identify sources of specific regulatory burden created by their own transposing legislation on OSH);
  5. Addressing the ageing of the European Workforce and improving prevention of work related diseases to tackle existing and new risks (European Parliament pilot project on older workers and of the Healthy Workplaces Campaign in 2016-2017);
  6. Improving statistical data collection to have better evidence and developing monitoring tools;
  7. Better co-ordination between EU and international efforts to address OSH and engage with international organizations (theproject to contribute to address notably the ILO or OSH deficits in the global supply chain and contribute to G20 initiatives on safer workplaces in this regard is a case in point).

The Framework identifies instruments to implement these actions: social dialogue, awareness raising, enforcement of EU legislation, synergies with other policy areas (public health and education) and EU funds such as the European Social Fund and the Employment and Social Innovation programme which are readily available to support the implementation of health and safety rules.

The above explained frame-work sets out for action, cooperation and exchange of good practice field of occupational health and safety in 2014-2020 that can be implemented only with the active collaboration of national authorities and social partners. The commission will therefore hold an open debate with key stakeholders fora about the views and proposals contained in this framework and will involve them in implementing actions where appropriate. The strategic framework will be reviewed in 2016 in light of the results of the ex post evaluation of the EU OSH acquis and progress thereof.