Occupational Health & Safety in the European Pillar of Social Rights


On 26th April 2017, the European Pillar of Social Rights was presented by the Commission. The principles and rights enshrined in the Pillar are structured around three categories: 1) equal opportunities and access to the labour market; 2) fair working conditions and; 3) social protection and inclusion.

In respect of Occupational Health and Safety (OSH), - and following the Commission Staff Working Document establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights -,  the major developments are the following:

  1. The Pillar urges Member States, but also employers, to go beyond the minimum requirements laid down in the current acquis and to get as close as possible to an accident-free and casualty free working environment. This does not mean only applying the rules, but also establishing ever-improving health and safety policies with the help of tools such as web-based and tools to facilitate risk assessments, dialogue with workers and workplace suppliers, all supported by guidance. (The Commission and EU-OSHA will be launching a peer review process with Member States with the specific aim of reducing administrative burden in national legislation while maintaining worker protection and further foster the development of relevant IT tools); and
  2. Principle (10b) of the Pillar introduces two inter-related rights: first, it goes beyond the protection of health and safety by affording workers the right to a working environment adapted to their specific occupational circumstances. Secondly, in accordance also with the principle of active ageing, it recognises the need to adapt the working environment in order to enable workers to have sustainable and longer working careers (e.g. better lighting for carrying out clerical work).

What can social partners do regarding the implementation of OSH policy in the European Pillar of Social Rights?:

At EU level, social partners are to be consulted on possible initiatives based on Articles 153 TFEU (improvements of OSH standards) and may request their social agreements to be implemented at EU level. In particular, social partners can promote and develop joint standards at national or Union level to adapt workplaces to accommodate active aging and intergenerational approach. European social partners signed on 8 March 2017 an autonomous agreement on active ageing and intergenerational approach also covering health and safety to be implemented by national social partners by 2020. Social partners may also collect and exchange good practices across the Union.

At national level, social partners may support the implementation of this principle via collective bargaining and through their involvement in the design and implementation of relevant policies.