ETUCE joins OAJ’s Educa Fair for seminar on occupational health and safety


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Schools are lively, uplifting and exciting places. However, at the same time, they can be noisy, unpredictable and stressful working environments. ETUCE and national member organisations are committed to ensuring that all education institutions can be , safe and healthy workplaces. This 23 January 2020, ETUCE and Finnish member organisation OAJ held a joint seminar on Occupational Health and Safety in Helsinki. Together we looked at what is changing in the world of health and safety, and explored initiatives at European and national level which can make a positive difference in the education sector, for the benefit of education workers and the wider school community.

The safety and health of education workers is a priority for education trade unions, and unions are taking all kinds of action to promote and improve it. This was the clear message that came out of the ETUCE-OAJ seminar, which took place just one day before OAJ’s Educa Fair, a leading education event in Finland which attracts thousands of participants to discover new trends in the education sector. Participants learned about European and national trade union activities aiming to improve health and safety provisions for education workers.

In particular, from a European perspective, the event focused on the recent Online Interactive Risk Assessment (OiRA) project, which resulted in the launch of two online occupational risk assessment tools for the early education and care and secondary education sectors, and the Third-Party Violence project. These were both conducted by the European Social Partners in Education, ETUCE and EFEE. The OiRA tools, which refer to European legislation, help education institutions comprehensively tackle occupational risks by identifying them and developing concrete plans to combat them.  The Third-Party Violence project looked at adapting the Multi-sectoral Guidelines to Tackle Third-Party Violence and Harassment Related to Work, of which ETUCE and EFEE are both co-signatories, to the education sector.

Participants at the Seminar also discussed in-depth Finnish initiatives and research projects which aim to improve the wellbeing of education staff wellbeing, including the recent OAJ campaign ‘2019: The Academic Year of Well-being’, which raised awareness about psychosocial hazards in the education sector.

In her closing remarks, ETUCE European Director Susan Flocken commented: “The variety of initiatives presented today shows that education trade unions are living up to their pivotal role in protecting education staff’s health and safety. I was especially pleased to see the work being done to reduce and combat psychosocial risks like work-related stress and harassment. The practices and research that we shared, from Finland and other European countries, show that workers in our sector have specific needs. Education trade unions understand these risks, and we are working hard together to ensure that education institutions are the safest possible working environment – a prerequisite for quality education.”

Olli Luukkainen, OAJ President, further commented: "The OAJ and ETUCE Occupational Safety and Health Joint Seminar held in conjunction with the largest education event in the Nordic countries, the EDUCA, had a very central topic – the important issue of well-being at work, and it was great that we gathered together specifically to discuss the theme of well-being at work. Well-being at work’, he added ‘means that work is meaningful and effortless. And it is done in a safe and healthy environment. […] This is especially important in education and training. Therefore, the exchange of experiences through this joint seminar and increasing the awareness of well-being at work is important."