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2 May 2017

World Day for Safety and Health at Work: the ETUC denounces inequalities in terms of health and safety at work

This year, the international labour movement had placed the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, celebrated every 28 April, under the issue of the impact of discriminations on workers’ health and safety. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has delivered a message focused on the risks encountered by some specific categories of workers.

‘Workers in precarious jobs, in small and medium sized enterprises, young workers, migrant workers and domestic workers are more at risk than permanent employees in larger workplaces. This is partly due to less training, information, and representation by safety reps for such workers, and in smaller companies’, has denounced the ETUC in a press release.

The trade union organisation pointed out the situation in the building industry: ‘About one third of building workers are exposed to very dangerous substances like carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxins. Among all occupations, the building workers have the highest probability of premature death’.

Apart from the building sector, the ETUC also singled out some categories of workers that are particularly vulnerable to a wide range of risks at their workplace: ‘Migrant workers have more musculoskeletal diseases, skin diseases and accidents at work (…) Young workers aged 15-24 are at particularly high risk of injury (…) and hairdressers represent about 1 % of the entire workforce, but 20 % of women affected by work-related asthma are hairdressers’.

The ETUC also criticized the lack of recognition of the risk of exposure for pregnant women to certain workplace conditions (e.g. exposure to chemical agents, ionising radiation, electromagnetic waves, stress, excessive heat, lifting heavy weights, noise etc).

 “Everyone’s health and safety matters. Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy work environment, no one should have to choose between their job and their health”, said Esther Lynch, the ETUC Confederal Secretary in charge of occupational health and safety issues.

On the basis of Eurostat data, the ETUC estimates that over 168,000 people die every year from work-related accidents and diseases, and that over 3 million accidents at work (those resulting in at least four days’ absence from work) are reported every year in the EU.

Further reading:

ETUC: Everyone's health and safety counts, 27 April 2017

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