European Safety Week: Healthy Workplaces for All Ages
European Safety Week runs from the 24th to the 28th of October 2016. The 2016/17 campaign runs with the “Healthy Workplaces for All Ages” theme with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of a sustainable working life. According to Eurostat, each year more than 5,000 people lose their lives in the EU as a result of accidents in the workplace.
There are 4 key objectives for the ‘16/’17 campaign including:
- Promoting sustainable work and healthy ageing from the start of the working life.
- Preventing health problems throughout the working life.
- Providing ways for employers and workers to manage occupational safety and health in the context of an aging workforce.
- Encouraging the exchange of information and good practice.
The European work-force is ageing. By 2030, workers aged between 55-64 are expected to make up 30% or more of the total workforce in many countries. By 2040, 27% of people living in the EU-28 are expected to be 65 years or older. The official retiring age is increasing, meaning that workers have longer working lives and longer exposure to work-related hazards. At the same time, the working age population is also shrinking. An older population and fewer workers will have implications for socioeconomic systems such as healthcare and pensions. This trend is predicted to continue and intensify. The employment rate of 55-64 year olds is increasing in the EU but the number of people retiring before they reach official retiring age is also increasing. Reasons for leaving the labour market before the official retiring age include:
- Working conditions
- Attitudes and behaviours in the workplace
- Lack of structures and procedures for vocational rehabilitation and return to work
- Financial position
- Family situation
Due to these reasons, policy-makers are being faced with major challenges when designing policies to promote extended working lives. Other challenges brought about by demographic change will lead to problems for organisations such as labour shortages, lack of skilled workers and concerns about productivity and absenteeism.
Dr. Christa Sedlatschek, Director of EU-OSHA has said:
“27% of European workers don’t think they will be able to do the same job at 60. That’s why prevention of occupational accidents and ill health are a cornerstone of our campaign. Employers must take into account to vulnerable workers, young workers, older workers, people with disabilities and women.”
Employers in Europe are legally obliged to carry our risk assessments and to adapt work to the individual. By fulfilling legal obligations and promoting safety and health for all ages, employers are likely to benefit from the following:
Healthy and safe workplaces = lower staff turnover + improvements in productivity.
In Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is the EU-OSHA’s official representative. The HSA will be coordinating the Healthy Workplaces Campaign at a national level; go to the HSA’s website for further information on events planned during this European Safety Week.