OSH Networking in Europe and Internationally
Sheila Pantry, OBE
Established in 1995, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, located in Bilbao, Spain, will play a major role in protecting European workers' health and safety by providing a single authoritative source of information relating to working conditions and the workplace environment.
The Agency's first priority will be to create a network linking up national 'Health and Safety at work' information networks and any institutions which could contribute to its work. (The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has just published the results of the research entitled The UK Information network to support the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work.)
The aim of this European network is to facilitate the provision of technical, scientific and economic information to European Union (EU) bodies, the Member States and those involved in the field of health and safety at work. Particular emphasis has been placed on the means of running preventative schemes.
The Agency plans to co-operate with other EU agencies, such as the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions located in Dublin, Ireland, and organizations outside the Union to avoid wasteful duplication and to maximise information. The European Agency's Administrative Board is composed of 48 members, representing governments, employers, employees and the European Commission.
The Agency has been established under Council Regulation No 2062/94 dated 18 July 1994 (see Official Journal of the European Communities (OJ) No L216/1) which was modified by the Regulation No.1643/95 dated 29 June 1995 (see OJ L156/1), and has a formidable lists of aims amongst which are:
- systematic collection of scientific and technical information, in order to
provide the Commission and Committee of Experts with the necessary assistance in
preparing and assessing the action planned in the field of occupational safety
and health. This may include preparation of scientific reference documents, and
preparation and administration of questionnaires to obtain scientific and
- establishment and update of a register of databases relevant to European
safety and health.
- development of specific sources and databases eg on safety and health
hazards and worker exposure, patterns of occupational illness and absenteeism,
solutions to technical problems, protective equipment.
- maintenance of a database listing research work undertaken by the Member
States in the field of OSH and identification of new research programmes.
- dissemination of the results of research work and technical development
programmes which are covered by the Community's OSH research programmes.
- establishment of a reference information centre of OSH technical and
- establishment of networks to obtain information on specific aspects of OSH.
- information exchange with countries and organizations outside the European
Union, link the Agency networks and topic centres with information services of
- exchange of specialists between Member States.
This is all very good news for OSH information managers such as myself who have worked for years in the hope that such networks and information flow between Member States and those in other countries could become a reality. In today's electronic world the Agency will have many technology based tools at its disposal to enable all those seeking OSH information to be able locate the information in a quick and easily accessible manner.
Hans-Horst Konkolewsky has been appointed Director of the European Agency in Bilbao. The appointment made on 3 July 1996, is initially for a period of five years. Mr Konkolewsky, of Danish nationality, 43 years old, has, since 1990, been deputy Director-General of the Danish Working Environment Fund.
The International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS) National and Collaborating Centres
The International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS) is a Branch of the Working Conditons and Environment Department of the International Labour Office (ILO). The ILO/CIS Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, enlists the collaboration of non profit making organisations which carry out extensive occupational safety and health activities within a defined country which have adequate facilities for this purpose, and with which it maintains special relations: these are designated National Centres.
In most cases these Centres are governmental agencies or agencies directly involved in Labour matters. In general there is only one Information Centre in a country. However, in countries where one Centre cannot satisfy the needs of the whole population, affiliated Centres may be established. These are called CIS Collaborating Centres. The relationship between CIS and the National Centres is mainly based on an exchange of services. Currently there are 115 countries networking in the CIS family network.
Services offered by CIS
CIS publishes the bimonthly Safety and Health at Work - ILO-CIS Bulletin, plus the 5 year index, and two or three bibliographies annually on special topics and the list of periodicals abstracted. It also publishes the CIS Thesaurus with supplements and includes 17,000 terms organised according to a subject or facet coding system and listed alphabetically.
It contains all the indexing terms or descriptors assigned to abstracts in CISDOC database (which is one of the four databases in SilverPlatter's OSH-ROM compact disc) for easy retrieval and is a very effective tool for searching the database. Since it exists in both English and French, it can also be used as an English/French dictionary of safety and health terms.
Services offered by National and Collaborating Centres (N and CC)
The National and Collaborating Centres participate in the CIS information dissemination system in several ways. Centres collect and select for dissemination documents covering all aspects of occupational safety and health that are published in their respective countries, in accordance with criteria established by the CIS and giving priority to decrees, regulations, laws etc., concerning occupational safety and health. Centres should also send to the CIS central services the original of documents selected for inclusion in the CISDOC database.
The Centres ensure liaison between the CIS and the users in their countries, and in particular, deal with requests from those users for information and services, publicize the work of the CIS, and answer all requests originating in its country (including those from subscribers) concerning the publications and activities of CIS.
Centres promote ILO/CIS activities locally to increase the number of CIS subscribers, through publicity and through direct contact with scientific, technical and medical organisations, and with business enterprises and trade unions.
CIS headquarters organises the CIS Annual General Meeting to which representatives of all the National and Collaborating Centres are invited. It is a forum for discussions on strengthening the collaboration between the National and Collaborating Centres and to exchange ideas concerning information relevant to occupational safety and health.
How to become a National or Collaborating Centre
When an organisation is interested in joining the family of CIS National and Collaborating Centres as the representative of its country, it must be able to fulfil or create the conditions for the functioning of the centre and meet certain basic requirements (e.g. there should not be an existing National or Collaborating Information Centre in the country). In the first instance contact should be made with CIS headquarters in Geneva to obtain full information on requirements.
CIS will send a copy of a Letter of Agreement that defines the relationship between CIS and an Information Centre and an information pack on basic CIS activities. In return the applicant organisation should provide CIS with a letter detailing the names, titles, addresses and telephone/telex/fax numbers of the persons who will be responsible for the Centre.
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Alameda de Mazarredo, 61-5a, E-48009 Bilbao, Spain. Fax +34 4 432 76 55.
Details about the Agency see: Council Regulation (EC) No 2062/94 establishing the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work - Official Journal (of the European Communities) L216, 1994 - modified by Regulation (EC) No 1643/95 (OJ L 156, 1995).
The UK Information network to support the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work, HSE Books, Sudbury, UK, CRR 104, ISBN 0 7176 1141 8
ILO CIS HQ, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland, Tel: +41 22 799 67 40, Fax: +41 22 798 62 53
Note that the above references can also be found in SilverPlatter's OSH CD-ROMs - OSH-ROM for bibliographic citations and OSH-CD for full text documents.
The products mentioned in this article are available for a free trial. Why not try these for yourself and check out the contents of these exciting sources of information against your own workplace needs?