Every year more than three million workers are victims of a serious accident at work in the EU and 4,000 people die in workplace accidents. The Commission today (June 6) published a new strategy framework on Health and Safety at Work for 2014-2020.

The strategy aims to better protect the more than 217 million workers from work-related accidents and diseases. They affect all sectors and professions and apart from the personal suffering, they also impose high costs on companies and society as a whole. Some workers are more at risk than others, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor, said at a press conference on Friday (6 June).

"Construction and transport are indeed the sectors where the largest number of fatalities happen in the EU, and obviously it's not a solution not to have construction in the future. We need safe construction sites and this is what we have to develop. improve the practices and the enforcement. Very often it's simply the enforcement of the existing rules which is needed of the existing ideas or measures," he said.

The Commission's Strategic Framework states that more effective and efficient risk prevention strategies should be put in place for micro and small enterprises. Prevention of work-related diseases by tackling new and emerging risks should occur without neglecting existing threats and the ageing of the EU's workforce should also be taken into account.

To address the challenges, the Commission proposes consolidating national health and safety strategies through policy coordination and mutual learning, improving statistical data collection and tackling existing and new risks such as nanomaterials, green technologies and biotechnologies.

"We have to look into the details and the risks of new technologies, including nanotechnology, where if there are significant risks, as this is an entirely new area, we need to be very well-prepared to manage and eliminate the health risks and the potential significant consequences," Andor stressed.

>> Read: Eurobarometer: Only half of Europeans say they have good working conditions

More than half of Europeans (53%) said that working conditions are good, according to a survey by Eurobarometer covering the 28 member states. At the same time, almost 60% said their working conditions have deteriorated in the last five years. 27% say conditions have stayed the same, while 12% think they have improved. But 77% of the respondents still said that they are "satisfied" with their current working conditions, though these have deteriorated in the last five years, according to almost 60% of the workers.

The Commission added that, especially in the context of the economic crisis, investing in a culture of risk prevention and promoting better conditions at the workplace offers economic and social benefits such as fewer work-related mishaps, improved staff well-being and job satisfaction.

Similar rules across the EU could create a level playing field for all businesses within the single market, the EU's executive said, addressing at the same time the need to prevent social dumping.