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Prevention is the cornerstone of the European approach to occupational safety and health (OSH): Innovative solutions help

February 2012

This means anticipating and analysing aspects of work to identify short and long-term risks, then taking action to eliminate or mitigate those risks. It applies to both occupational health risks and occupational safety risks. Prevention, based on risk assessment, is also the basis of European health and safety at work legislation. This chief principle is described in article 6 of the Framework Directive of 12 June 1989 (89/391/EEC) on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in safety and health at work.

In 2008-2009 the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) ran a "Healthy Workplaces Campaign" (HWC) to raise awareness of the risk assessment approach. This is the start of the risk management process and if not done, or badly done, the correct preventive solution is unlikely to be found. Within the 2012-2013 Healthy Workplace Campaign theme of "better health and safety at work through prevention", the EU-OSHA will further address the promotion of prevention as the cornerstone of the European approach to achieve better OSH. The campaign is focused on the prevention process and the implementation of suitable, practical solutions that are sustainable over time.

One ambitious aim of the European Commission (COM) in its Community Strategy on Health and Safety at Work for the period 2007-2012 (COM, 2007), is to reduce the occupational incident rate within the European Union (EU) by 25%.

The Community Strategy recognises that there is a need for economic incentives to motivate enterprises to use good practice in their prevention work. Successful incentive schemes lead to a significant decrease in occupational accident and disease rates for participating enterprises. Effective economic incentive models can help to reach the objective of a 25% accident reduction (e.g. EU-OSHA, 2010a).

In 2007 the EU-OSHA established a major, long-term project on economic incentives in relation to OSH. Economic incentives in OSH refer to processes that reward organisations that develop and maintain safe and healthy working environments (EU-OSHA, 2005, 2010a). The aim of the EU-OSHA economic incentives project is to stimulate a mutual learning process. This includes the exchange of information between the different economic incentives organisations and experts of the EU Member States. One conclusion from this project is that incentives schemes should not only reward past results of good OSH management, but should also reward specific prevention efforts which aim to reduce future accidents and ill-health (EU-OSHA, 2010a). Experts from this project have therefore suggested the development of compilations of innovative and evidence-based preventive solutions. The preventive measures should be promoted, and if possible applied in economic incentives schemes.

This report from EU-OSHA seeks to contribute to, and inform the development of compilations of preventive solutions. These aim to describe a wide range of innovative and, preferably, evidenced-based preventive solutions that organisations can integrate into their daily workplace practices.

In order to narrow the scope, the report focuses on three specific occupational sectors:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Construction
  3. Hotel and food service sector, further referred to as HORECA

Full report: