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News Archive

October 2003

Common action for REACH needed

Cefic, the European Chemical Industry Council, is pleased the European Commission has recognised the need to reconsider the cost impact of its proposals for a new chemicals legislation. The chemical industry acknowledges the fact that the amendments to the scope of REACH will have a positive impact on direct costs, which still need to be finally assessed.

The Commission's impact assessment on the effects of the Chemicals Review which was presented to stakeholders today, shows considerable differences to previous studies in France (Mercer) and Germany (ADL), which is of great concern to the industry.

Whilst an encouraging move on the Commission's part, this latest analysis, in Cefic's view, does not meet the request made by the three Heads of State and Government Chirac, Schröder and Blair, in their recent letter to Commission President Romano Prodi.

Over the past year a significant amount of valuable work has been conducted by both industry and the Commission. "When taken together, the different impact studies constitute a good basis for an independent and extended impact assessment. The chemical industry offers to co-operate and make all its expertise and data available, in order to help complete the picture of the business impact along the value chain, in the interest of Europe's economic development. The Lisbon objectives are our goal" said Eggert Voscherau, President of Cefic.

The Commission's assessment focuses mainly on the issue of costs. In Cefic's view it should also examine the broader induced effects on the EU economy, such as employment, investment, time to market, loss of know-how, etc. The study states that from a macroeconomic perspective, the overall impact in terms of reduction of GDP is likely to be negligible, which is not in line with the results of the other studies. These different evaluations of the impact have to be clarified, beyond any doubt. For this reason, a dynamic model should be used which takes into account the heterogeneous structure of the chemical industry and considers effects throughout the whole value chain and economy.

The Commission assumes that the European chemical industry will be able to cope with the additional burden imposed by REACH because of its high level of international competitiveness. "Reality shows that the EU chemical industry is facing fierce competition in the global market place and market share has come down from 34 % in 1995 to 28.6 % in 2002" said Eggert Voscherau. "Because of that and in order to maintain our global competitiveness we want to fully co-operate to ensure an efficient and workable system".

For more information:
Jan BASZAK | +3226767219 | Mobile: +32477340541 | jba@cefic.be
Marc DEVISSCHER | +3226767223 | Mobile: +32476253445 | mde@cefic.be

Irish Minister for Health and Children published the Tobacco Smoking (Prohibition) Regulations 2003

The regulations have been made under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 and the key points of the regulations are as follows:

The Minister said "The primary purpose in introducing this important new health measure is to allow people to work and socialise in clean healthy smoke free environments. No one can be in any doubt that exposure to and inhalation of environmental tobacco smoke is a cause of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. The Expert evidence on the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace is clear:

Given the unique circumstances pertaining to prisons and places of detention, consultation is ongoing between the relevant agencies with a view to devising a separate measure to reflect these circumstances. A similar provision already exists under the Health and Safety Act 1989 (Section 57), which applies specifically to prisons and places of detention.

A National Implementation Committee has been established involving the Office of Tobacco Control, the Health and Safety Authority, the Environmental Health Officers, Health Board representatives and the Department of Health and Children. This Committee will provide assistance on the implementation of the regulations. Guidance for implementation will be published in November.

Public Information campaigns will be carried out in advance of 26 January 2004 to assist, employers, employees and the public in preparation for this new health initiative.

Concluding Minister Martin said, "I believe that this is a measure that will bring significant public health benefits to present and future generations".

The Foundation is paving the road to enlargement: longer working hours, higher physical risk in acceding and candidate countries

Workers in the acceding and candidate countries (ACC) work longer hours in less service-related industries than their EU counterparts, with higher exposure to various physical risk factors such as dangerous substances, fumes and noise. These are some of the conclusions that can be drawn from the wide-ranging report 'Working conditions in the acceding and candidate countries, in a recently published report.

'The survey provides a first comprehensive overview of working conditions in the 13 acceding and candidate countries, using the same methodology as in the previous European working conditions surveys carried out by the Foundation in 1990, 1995 and 2000,' says Willy Buschak, Acting Director of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, the Dublin-based EU-agency providing data and analysis on socio-economic issues in Europe. 'The report is the first in a series of Foundation publications and events over the coming months, aimed at increasing knowledge, data and analysis on living and working conditions in the new enlarged Europe. A comprehensive report based on the survey of living conditions in the ACC will be published in February 2004. A conference to promote social dialogue as a tool for conflict resolution in the ACC will take place in March. The results of the 28-country pan-European Quality of Life monitoring initiative will also be available in May 2004.'

The average working week in the ACC is 44.4 hours per week compared to the EU average of 38.2. One in five the workforce in the ACC is involved in agriculture, compared to only one in 20 in the EU. Considerably fewer people in the ACC (47%) are employed in the services sector than in the EU (66%). 51% of the workforce in the ACC is over the age of 40, compared to 47% in the current EU Member States. Some 40% of ACC workers believe their health and safety is at risk due to work, compared to only 27% in the EU.

The results of this survey offer an important first and unique comparative insight into working conditions in these countries. The findings provide a positive input to the socio-economic policies for the new enlarged European Union and will serve as a basis for monitoring trends in working conditions in an enlarged Europe. The Foundation's fourth European working conditions survey, planned for early 2005, will cover working conditions in the 25 EU Member States as well as candidate countries and selected third countries.

Willy Buschak, the Foundation's Acting Director says: 'There are some important structural differences between the Acceding and Candidate countries and the current EU Member States, in terms of the distribution of the workforce between sectors and types of jobs, and income levels. Work organisation in the acceding and candidate countries is based around traditional industrial production methods and is less service oriented. It also tends to be less decentralised and more hierarchical than in the EU.'

The survey is based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of a total of 11,000 workers: 1000 workers in each country, apart from Malta and Cyprus where 500 persons were interviewed.

Ms Agnés Parent-Thirion, Research Coordinator of the Working Conditions team at the Foundation commented: ' The Structure of the workforce - One in five or 21% of the work force in the acceding and candidate countries (ACC) is involved in agriculture, compared to only one in 20 or 5% in the EU. 40% of ACC workers believe their health and safety is at risk due to work, compared to only 27% in the EU'.

The full report is available for downloading in the following languages: EN, FR, LT, BG, CS, ET, HU, SK, PL, SL, TR, RO, and LV, at www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef0306.htm

Further information contact: The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Mr. Måns Mårtensson, press officer | Tel: +353-1-204 3124 | mobile: +353-876-593 507 | Email: press.officer@eurofound.eu.int

Keep up with news from the European Foundation at http://eurofound.europa.eu/news

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European Agency for Safety and Health at Work launches online safety and health guide for Europe's small and medium businesses

The European Agency has launched a new online guide of occupational safety and health advice for Europe's 19 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

According to European research, the fatal accident rate in enterprises with fewer than 50 workers is around double that of larger companies. And with more than 75 million EU workers employed in the SME sector, preventing work-related accidents and ill health in SMEs is one of the EU's most pressing safety and health issues.

In line with the Commission recommendation, and for the purpose of the SME schemes, SMEs are defined as enterprises, which have fewer than 250 workers. Small firms are defined as enterprises, which have fewer than 50 workers. Micro firms are defined as enterprises, which have fewer than 10 workers.

Europe's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) employ more than 65% of the EU's workforce and account for over 99% of the EU's 18 million enterprises, outside the agricultural sector. However, due to a lack of financial and organisational resources, many SMEs have only limited occupational health and safety knowledge and capacity.

As well as presenting information on the Agency's own activities such as its SME funding schemes and information projects, the web feature provides access to a wide range of practical information. This covers key risks such as accidents, dangerous substances (the focus of this October's European Week for Safety and Health at Work campaign) and work-related stress, as well as important SME employment sectors such as construction and fisheries.

In addition to the web feature, a new CD-ROM provides details of more than 50 innovative accident prevention projects supported by Agency's first SME funding scheme. Promoting health and safety in Europe's SMEs is published in five languages (DE, EN, ES, FR and IT) and reports on a scheme, which an independent evaluation concluded has benefited more than 500,000 SMEs. The CD-ROM and web feature will help even more companies learn about the many innovative ideas for the information, training and exchange of good practice in the field.

The new web feature was unveiled on Wednesday 1 October 2003 at an international conference in Rome on occupational safety and health in SMEs jointly organised by the Italian Presidency of the EU and the Agency. Speaking at the launch, Agency Director, Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, commented: 'SMEs employ two out of every three workers in the EU, but many have difficulties managing their safety and health obligations due to a lack of knowledge and resources. The Agency's web feature will help bridge this gap by allowing Europe's SMEs to get access to safety and health information, which is up-to-date and practical. We hope that it will contribute to improved safety and health performance across the sector.'

Further information: refer to the Agency website at http://osha.europa.eu

Enquiries: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Gran Via 33 E-48009 Bilbao - Spain | Tel: + 34 94 479 4360 | Fax: + 34 94 479 4383 | Email: information@osha.eu.int

Information pack available at https://osha.europa.eu/en/themes/safety-and-health-micro-and-small-enterprises

Small, safe and productive - how to strengthen the prevention culture in Europe's SMEs - Survey of national, regional and sector initiatives

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), employing about two thirds of the entire working population of Europe, pose the biggest work safety challenge for the EU, according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.

The risk of fatal accidents in enterprises with less than 50 employees is around double that for larger companies. Yet these businesses account for 99 per cent of all enterprises in the European Union.

Encouraging enhanced work safety standards in SMEs is a task demanding a combined effort by the European Union and its Member States. Occupational risk is rarely a front-line preoccupation for small companies with limited financial resources and lack of safety and health knowledge. So, initiatives need to be focused and practical as well as participatory and cost-effective.

The Bilbao-based European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has just completed a survey of national, regional and sectoral initiatives aimed at increasing SME awareness. This examines 18 successful occupational safety and health assistance services to SMEs, ranging from industry-wide projects to highly focused initiatives, in 14 Member States.

'Most small businesses need assistance in order to cope with their safety and health obligations. Our survey of assistance schemes in the Member States shows that it might be difficult to reach SMEs and to make them act - however, it's not impossible if the success criteria identified are taken into account' comments Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Director of the Agency. 'We hope that the results of our report and the case studies presented will lead to similar initiatives across Europe so that the safety and health conditions of about 75 million workers in the EU employed in SMEs will be improved.'

The newly published report, Improving occupational safety and health in SMEs: examples of effective assistance, is available on the Agency website at: http://osha.europa.eu/publications/reports/311

The printed report entitled Improving occupational safety and health in SMEs: examples of effective assistance, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2003, ISBN 92-9191-043-0, can be ordered from the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities in Luxembourg http://publications.europa.eu or from its sales agents. The price is 25 euro (excluding VAT).

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Gran Via 33, E-48009 Bilbao - Spain | Tel: + 34 94 479 4360 | Fax: + 34 94 479 4383 | Email: information@osha.eu.int | http://osha.europa.eu

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