EU OSH Strategic framework

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To achieve measurable improvements of the working conditions and a reduction of occupational accidents and diseases there should be a structured, strategic approach to occupational safety and health.

The previous European Strategy on Safety and Health at Work ran from 2007 – 2012. Following an evaluation of the strategy commissioned by DG Employment and a public consultation procedure, and with the contributions of relevant stakeholders in this policy field, such as EU institutions, the social partners, the tripartite Advisory Committee on Health and Safety at Work and the Senior Labour Inspectors’ Committee (SLIC), the Commission published the new strategic framework 2014- 20.

The results of the public consultation showed that a large majority of stakeholders consider it necessary to continue coordinating occupational health and safety policies at EU level, with a 75% of respondents advocating for a new EU Strategic Framework as an appropriate tool to improve workplace safety and health.

The improvements achieved in the EU’s performance on occupational health and safety over the last 25 years can be attributed to a large extent to the comprehensive legislation and policy actions launched and implemented by the EU, Member States and stakeholders such as worker and employer representatives.

The evaluation of the 2007-12 EU strategy on health and safety at work confirmed its overall effectiveness and that its main objectives were achieved. However, implementation continues to be a challenge, in particular for micro and small companies, which have difficulties in complying with some regulatory requirements. When asked why an EU Framework is necessary, respondents cited the need to ensure similar standards and workers' protection in all EU Member States; a level playing field for Europe's businesses; and to help Member States to set a focus in their workplace health and safety policies.

The European Commission has adopted a new Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020, which identifies key challenges and strategic objectives for health and safety at work, presents key actions and identifies instruments to address these. This new Framework aims at ensuring that the EU continues to play a leading role in the promotion of high standards for working conditions both within Europe and internationally, in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy.

As risks to workers’ health and safety are broadly similar across the EU, there is a clear role for the Union in helping Member States to address such risks more efficiently and in ensuring a level playing-field throughout the EU.

EU strategies identify priorities and common objectives, provide a framework for coordinating national policies and promote a holistic culture of prevention, as supported by the stakeholders.

Challenges, objectives, and instruments

The Strategic Framework identifies the following challenges:

  • to improve implementation of existing health and safety rules, in particular by enhancing the capacity of micro and small enterprises to put in place effective and efficient risk prevention strategies
  • to improve the prevention of work-related diseases by tackling new and emerging risks without neglecting existing risks
  • to take account of the ageing of the EU's workforce

To meet these challenges, the strategic framework contains a series of strategic objectives:

  • Further consolidating national health and safety strategies
  • Providing practical support to small and micro enterprises to help them to better comply with health and safety rules. Businesses would benefit from technical assistance and practical tools, such as the Online Interactive Risk Assessment (OiRA), a web platform providing sectoral risk assessment tools
  • Improving enforcement by Member States
  • Simplifying existing legislation where appropriate to eliminate unnecessary administrative burdens, while preserving a high level of protection for workers’ health and safety
  • Addressing the ageing of the European workforce
  • Improving prevention of work-related diseases to tackle existing and new risks such as nanomaterials, green technology and biotechnologies
  • Improving statistical data collection to have better evidence and developing monitoring tools.
  • Reinforcing coordination with international organisations (such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to contribute to reducing work accidents and occupational diseases and to improving working conditions worldwide.

The Strategic Framework identifies instruments to implement these actions, highlighting for instance the EU funds, such as the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) programme, that are available to support the implementation of health and safety rules.


The Commission, the Member States, worker and employer representatives – in particular in the context of the Advisory Committee on Safety an and Health at Work- and other European bodies, such as the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, would have a relevant play to role in the implementation of the new EU Strategic Framework.

The Commission will ensure monitoring of the implementation of the Framework, which is due to be reviewed in 2016 to take into account the results of its implementation, of the on-going comprehensive evaluation of the EU occupational health and safety at work Directives and of the review of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

In early 2017, the Commission published a 'Commission Staff Working Document'[1] on the Ex-post evaluation of the EU occupational safety and health Directives (REFIT evaluation) together with the main (executive summary and synopsis) reports from the commissioned independent ex-post evaluation; 27 Country Summary Reports from that evaluation (summarising the implementation of the Directives in each individual Member State); and separate reports on the Framework Directive and each of the 23 individual directives.

The Executive Summary from the ex-post evaluation lists a series of recommendations including:

  • Maintain structure of acquis with a Framework Directive and individual directives
  • Develop the acquis more in the direction of the goal-oriented regulatory approach
  • Streamline the application of the CPMs
  • Strengthen the external coherence of the directives
  • Reconsider how to address vulnerable groups
  • Address risks related to MSDs
  • Address psychosocial risks
  • Give attention to updating of relevant Directives
  • Streamline provisions dealing with chemical agents to ensure coherent coverage of risks
  • Streamline provisions dealing with physical agents to ensure coherent coverage of risks

Further recommendations encompassed those relating to Compliance, enforcement and SMEs; and Data and monitoring.

Links for further reading

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, The Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on an EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-202 COM(2014) 332 final Brussels, 6.6.2014

EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Strategic Framework 2014-2020

Health and Safety at Work: new EU Strategic Framework 2014-2020 - frequently asked questions
  1. Commission Staff Working Document Ex-post evaluation of the EU occupational safety and health Directives (REFIT evaluation) Occupational Safety and Health  OSH  Directives