European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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16 December 2014

ETUC action call on health and safety at work

The European Union must take action to stop the 100,000 deaths a year caused by occupational cancers, said the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) in early December. The trade union organisation also condemned the European Commission for blocking health and safety improvements and for putting forward an extremely weak health and safety strategy to run until 2020.

Putting together its own plan to improve conditions for Europe’s workers, the ETUC has called for wide-ranging action covering hazardous substances, strain injuries and stress. A resolution agreed by the union body says there must be legally enforceable exposure limits for 50 of the most cancer-causing chemicals and substances toxic for reproduction. It also demands a Directive on musculoskeletal disorders to prevent back injuries and other illnesses caused by heavy lifting or muscular strain. It adds there should be action “to require employers to assess and prevent psychosocial risks at work such as stress which 25 per cent of workers experience.”

The union body is highly critical of the European Commission, which it says has blocked a revision of the rules on cancer-causing and mutagenic exposures at work, so only three cancer inducing chemicals have European exposure limits. Among other failings, ETUC says the commission has held back a ready to go directive on musculoskeletal disorders.

Bernadette Ségol, general secretary of the ETUC, said: “It is a scandal that 100,000 people die every year in the EU from occupational cancers, and an outrage that the Barroso Commission refused to pass any new health and safety law. I invite the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner Marianne Thyssen to take action to protect European citizens from death, disease and illness at work.”

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