Labour inspection: a public service in crisis

Labour inspection services across Europe have been going through an existential crisis. With few exceptions, workforces have been reduced while inspectors have been assigned more extensive duties. Faced with these transformations in the world of work, the sheer scale of their mission can leave labour inspectors feeling powerless.

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Editorial: Expertise, power and inequalities

The European Commission took decisions on two important matters in June 2016. These related, on the one hand, to setting criteria for identifying endocrine disrupters and, on the other, deciding whether to ban glyphosate, a herbicide used widely in Europe and throughout the world. Both matters raised a number of issues that frequently occur in the... Find out more

Cancer at work: more needs to be done to achieve better legislation

Putting more than 10 years of paralysis behind it, in May 2016 the European Commission officially launched a review of the Directive on the prevention of occupational cancers. The proposal is minimalist but it has resulted in an unblocking of the legislative process. What is at stake? Riky Hesse is a quiet, elderly lady with sparkling eyes. She... Find out more

David Walters

Labour inspection and health and safety in the EU

British expert David Walters presents a comprehensive review of the main systems of labour inspection that exist in the European Union. Faced with profound transformations in the world of work, the emergence of new risks, and generally unfavourable policy shifts, labour inspectorates have been forced to rethink their strategic approach to... Find out more

Inspection and unions: 'convergence and maybe more…'

The fact that labour inspection bodies are independent does not necessarily mean they are neutral, which would in fact be unrealistic in practice. Such inspection has relied from the very start on the unions’ daily work within companies in order to ensure its effectiveness. there is now an overriding need for this link to be strengthened. Valeria... Find out more

Barbara Matejčić

Serbia’s labour inspectors tackle the 'shadow economy'

As in most Eastern European countries, the economic fabric of Serbia is dominated by small and micro-enterprises. Some are not even declared to the authorities. Under those conditions, undeclared employment flourishes. The Government has set labour inspectors the task of remedying this situation. It is not easy to motivate understaffed teams who... Find out more

Steve Tombs

The degradation of labour inspection in the UK

Regulation to mitigate the worst excesses of capitalist production first emerged in Great Britain in the early 1800s. Always a site of struggle, this regulatory regime has in recent years come under sustained political attack, particularly in the economic context of austerity. The result is a transformation – some might even say the end – of a... Find out more

Deborah Berlioz

Is Germany’s dual system fit for purpose?

Both the state authorities and the accident insurance funds carry out workplace inspections in Germany. Even though the latter are bankrolled by the companies themselves, they appear to be no less efficient in their work. Yet is there any real need for this duplication of work? Martin Wuttke’s morning to-do list includes an inspection at Arxes... Find out more

Anyfantis Ioannis, Boustras Georgios, Karageorgiou Alexandros

How labour inspectorates have responded to the crisis in the worst affected countries – the example of Greece

Severely affected by the fiscal consolidation measures in Greece, the labour inspectorate has been struggling against all odds to stimulate the development of a health and safety culture in the world of work. However, the priority given to the fight against undeclared work has had the effect of pushing the question of working conditions to the... Find out more

Pien Heuts

How the Inspectorate handles chemicals in the workplace

The Netherlands has a well-developed chemical industry. Under the patronage of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, the Inspectorate bearing the same name is responsible for keeping tabs on manufacturers of substances posing an increased risk to workers and the environment. One of the priorities for 2017 is ensuring that workers are... Find out more

Michael Quinlan

Inspection and supply chains: the Australian experience

The growth of supply chains, which often entail elaborate national and international networks of subcontracting, have posed significant challenges for controlled occupational health and safety (OHS) hazards. This includes the growth of dependent forms of self-employed subcontracted work, temporary agency work, franchising and other non-employment... Find out more

Pien Heuts

'We didn’t know how dangerous it was.' Former DuPont workers invoke the responsibility of the chemicals giant

Dozens of former workers at the Lycra factory in the Netherlands have, with the support of their unions, engaged in a battle with the chemicals industry giant, DuPont. They hold the company responsible for numerous miscarriages, hysterectomies, stillbirths and cancers, all caused by their exposure to a solvent. DuPont’s Lycra factory in Dordrecht... Find out more

Emmanuelle Walter

Canadian women crab workers: 'empowerment' through ergonomics

Quebec ergonomist Marie-Eve Major, Doctor of Biology, has set herself a mission: the continual improvement of working conditions for seasonal workers. We followed her for three days around a crab-processing plant on the island of Newfoundland, on the east coast of Canada, and were thrown into a world of hardship and solidarity. Day one It takes two... Find out more

People affected by chronic conditions: the 'regulators of humanity' and their role in transforming work

The link between chronic disease and work is rarely considered. And yet it is an important reality in the workplace. In France, it is estimated that a quarter of the working age population is affected by a chronic condition. This equates to around 10 million people. It is likely that similar proportions would be found in other European countries... Find out more

Denis Grégoire

Inside an invisible industry

The real monsters of the seas have nothing in common with the ships which plough the Venetian Lagoon carrying thousands of tourists and an overabundance of crew members. Belying their XXL dimensions, these monsters are much more discreet and keep their distance from the shipping lanes along the coasts of antique Mediterranean islands and cities... Find out more

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Labour inspection: a public service in crisis