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Community programme concerning safety, hygiene and health at work (1996-2000)

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Community programme concerning safety, hygiene and health at work (1996-2000)


Adapt Community policy in the field of safety and health at work to the profound changes resulting from the development of science and technology.


Communication from the Commission of 12 July 1995 on a Community programme concerning safety, hygiene and health at work (1996-2000)


Almost 8 000 workers die each year as a result of accidents at work and approximately 10 million people are victims of occupational accidents or diseases. Work accidents and occupational diseases also adversely affect productivity and the growth of employment.

The objective of the Commission's policy in the field of safety and health at work during the past 30 years has been to minimise the number of accidents at work and occupational diseases.

Hence, since 1978 the Commission has mounted three action programmes, the last of which featured three fundamental strands:

  • improve worker safety and health protection;
  • provide workers with adequate protection against the risks of accidents at work and occupational diseases;
  • ensure that competitive pressures in the single market do not adversely affect workers' safety and health.

The Community's activities in the framework of these action programmes were mainly of a legislative nature, with the adoption of minimum health and safety requirements with a view to completing the internal market and ensuring freedom of movement for workers.

The goal was to reduce risks by adopting a raft of directives, especially in certain sectors considered to be particularly hazardous, and to protect "vulnerable" workers.

Information was one of the priorities of these programmes, as reflected in two major initiatives:

  • the adoption of the European Year of Safety, Hygiene and Health Protection at Work in 1992, which made it possible to familiarise the public with the Community directives adopted in the wake of the Commission's third action programme and to promote the Member States' policies in this area;
  • the creation of a system for the exchange of information between Member States, in the form of the publication JANUS.

In order to improve worker protection in the Community, the Commission decided to mount a new action programme that extends the preceding action programmes and draws on a wider range of instruments.

The new programme consists of three parts:

  • non-legislative measures;
  • old and new legislative measures;
  • safety and health in the framework of other policies.

This programme lays down the framework for current and future activities for a five-year period from 1 January 1996 to 31 December 2000.

4) deadline for implementation of the legislation in the member states

Not applicable

5) date of entry into force (if different from the above)

6) references

Commission Communication COM(95) 282 final CNS 950155Not published in the Official Journal

7) follow-up work

On 3 September 1998 the Commission adopted an interim report on the Community programme in the field of safety, hygiene and health at work (1996-2000) [COM(98) 511 final - not published in the Official Journal].

The report presents the activities implemented under the Community programme in 1996-1998:

  • the establishment on an operational basis of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in Bilbao, which is a source of scientific, technical and economic information for all concerned;
  • the proposal for a Decision on the adoption of the SAFE programme, which is still before the Council, despite the strong support it has received from the social partners, governments and the European Parliament;
  • an improvement in the rate of transposition of directives adopted on the basis of Article 118a (the transposition rate is currently 95%, as opposed to 74% in 1996) and the updating of existing legal instruments (such as Council Directive 98/24/EC on chemical agents adopted on 7 April 1998, which simplifies and consolidates several directives).

For the second phase of the programme (1998-2000), the Commission has presented its revised priorities in the field of safety and health at work:

- Reinforce the effectiveness of Community legislation:

  • by correct transposition of the provisions and their practical enforcement (evaluation reports, controls by the labour inspectors);
  • by preparing specific studies on the impact of Community legislation on business with a view to improvements;
  • by the creation of a safety culture in the undertakings.

- Prepare for enlargement:

  • by integrating hygiene and safety at work into the legislation of the applicant countries;
  • by assessing the conformity of the applicant countries' social legislation (number of accidents at work, type of procedures created, etc.) through the intermediary of the accession partnerships;
  • by providing Community aid under the PHARE programme (aid for training specialists, exchange of technical information).

- Develop the link with employability: the quality of employees' work depends in large measure on their working conditions. Improvement of employability focuses on two priorities:

  • prevention of accidents and diseases with a view to raising productivity (each year, almost 5 million accidents at work and occupational diseases lead to temporary or permanent incapacity);
  • creating jobs for disabled people by promoting the placement of such workers and by improving their working conditions to adapt them to their specific needs.

- Ensure good working conditions in a period of change characterised by: expansion of the tertiary sector, the feminisation and ageing of the active population, and the development of new forms of work organisation associated with new risks. For example, the expansion of the tertiary sector has led to a reduction in accidents at work but there has been an increase in the incidence of stress-induced health problems.

The Commission proposes to:

  • pay closer attention to the implications of these trends and their impact on health and safety policies, notably on training of the labour force;
  • launch a debate on changes in working conditions and their impact on health and safety;
  • draft a report on the "State of health and safety in the European Union";
  • reinforce cooperation and the pooling of information in the field of health and safety with third countries (in the context of such international organisations as the UNO or the ILO);
  • promote research in this sector in the context of the Community's fifth Framework Programme for Research.

8) commission implementing measures

Decision - C(2000) 1368 [not published in the Official Journal]

On 23 May 2000, the Commission adopted a decision relating to the first phase of consultation with the social partners, conforming to Article 138(2) of the EC Treaty on health and security protection at work for the self-employed.