One of the final acts of the Italian presidency of the European Union, which ended on 31 December 2014, was to host a conference on future health and safety at work policy.
The event, on 4-5 December 2014 heard Laurent Vogel, a researcher with the European trade union research organisation ETUI, call for the Europe-wide directive on carcinogens and mutagens in the workplace to be overhauled. He told the event: “100,000 people die each year in the European Union from a failure to prevent work-related cancers,” adding: “The review process was started ten years ago; it is high time something was actually done at last to cut down workers’ exposure to countless carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxins.”
The Italian Labour Ministry’s director general for occupational health policies, Paolo Onelli, said that Italy would join with Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands to fashion a common legislative framework for more effective preventive action on occupational cancers.
The issue of occupational health will return to the EU agenda in March 2015 at the EU Council of Ministers meeting. There are fears the EU will embark on a new deregulatory drive halting any progress on health and safety initiatives after the 18 December 2014 appoint of German right-wing politician Edmund Stoiber as the European Commission’s special adviser on ‘better regulation.’
Commenting on the move, Veronica Nilsson, confederal secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, said: “I fear Mr Stoiber will not help with better regulation, but lobby on behalf of business for less regulation. That risks being at the expense of workers, consumers and the environment. It could mean further delays in much needed health and safety regulations such as on exposure at work to cancer-causing chemicals.”
ETUI news report, 16 December 2014, and Laurent Vogel’s presentation: The point of view of the European trade unions: It is urgent to revitalise the EU occupational health and safety policy. ETUC news release, 18 December 2014 and better regulation webpages. Risks 685.