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Health and safety in hard times: EU-OSHA Director Jukka Takala advises to think carefully before cutting back on investment in OSH

August 2009

Writing in the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work's Annual Report for 2008, Jukka Takala argues that companies should think carefully before cutting back on their investment in occupational safety and health (OSH), in the face of global recession. "There is no point in making short-term gains at the cost of long-term problems", he writes. "All of our work shows that the more healthy workplaces are, the more productive they also tend to be."

EU-OSHA's mission is to make Europe a safer, healthier and more productive place to work, by collecting and disseminating information on OSH, and examples of good practice. Its activities are guided by the EU Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work, 2007-2012, which aims to bring about substantial reductions in work-related accidents and illness across Europe.

Key achievements in 2008, highlighted in the report include the Agency's Healthy Workplaces campaign on risk assessment, which is the cornerstone of health and safety management. The campaign has so far involved more than 7,000 participants in seminars, training events and workshops, with some 2 million print publications being distributed. The campaign is a good example of how EU-OSHA works with its partners to reach workers in Europe.

With the launch of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), EU-OSHA has begun to identify what is currently being done, both in private- and public sector workplaces, to deal with psychosocial and other risks.

Another focus in 2008 were emerging chemical risks with a new report finalised, the last in a series of flagship reports which have also examined physical, psychosocial and biological risks. Together, they establish the state of knowledge in these fast-changing areas, and highlight particular subjects that need to be the focus of research or policy-making.

Finally, the Agency's Strategy for 2009-2013, which was agreed in 2008, sets out how EU-OSHA will work in the years ahead to reduce the high cost, both human and economic, of occupational accidents and work-related diseases. The Strategy sets out a clear role for EU-OSHA in co-ordinating the many different efforts that take place in OSH around Europe, helping to identify common problems, and sharing information and good practice.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work was set up by the European Union to help meet the information needs in the field of occupational safety and health. Based in Bilbao, Spain, the Agency aims to improve the lives of people at work by stimulating the flow of technical, scientific and economic information between all those involved in occupational safety and health issues.

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