European Legislation on Health & Safety – Guide to EU Laws

Despite Brexit in 2021, being familiar with European Legislation on health and safety is still important within UK businesses. When the UK enacted the Brexit bill in early 2021, EU laws on health and safety were adopted as a legislative framework moving forward. Whilst UK laws may change in future, it will take some time.

In Europe, the facts about safety are startling. Every five seconds there’s a work-related accident, causing 210 million working days to be lost each year. Over time, such accidents have also led to 2.3 million people off work with a chronic disability. The European Commission therefore takes a keen interest in all issues related to Occupational Health and Safety.

The Framework – EU H & S Directive Law

The Commission bases European health and safety law on Article 137 of the EU Treaty. This treaty gives the EU the right to create legislation that it feels is necessary.

The EU has created health and safety law through a series of European Directives. The Framework Directive – also called Directive 89/391/EEC – lays down the health and safety principles. Further EU laws give the detail on topics such as noise, pregnancy and the use of chemicals.

These laws affect the way in which individual EU states promote and manage their health and safety issues.

The Aim of the EU Health and Safety Legislation

The specifics of the EU health and safety directives are comprehensive and well-publicised. Their general aims are twofold: to ensure workers’ health, safety and well-being, and to maintain the well-being and productivity of businesses. The basis of the directives is scientific and technical advice from across the EU.

As well as creating legislation, the EU encourages health and safety research; strong enforcement of health and safety best practice; and regular training programmes.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

In 1996, to coordinate and maintain health and safety standards across Europe, the EU set up the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. The Agency has its base in Bilbao, Spain. Its purpose is to make every workplace in Europe healthier, safer and more productive. It also has a remit to spread the health and safety message.

Spreading this Safety Message

Many people will have seen the ways the Agency uses to communicate this message. Examples are direct campaigns in the media, and information on the Internet. One of the regular campaigns is the European Week for Safety and Health at Work. This usually occurs in October when there are various awareness-raising events across the continent. The theme for the health and safety week changes each year. In the past the themes have covered stress, accidents, and Hazardous Substances.

Best Practice in Health & Safety Legislation

As a result of such efforts, the Agency has developed a pool of information about health and safety best practice. The Agency divides this into industry sectors, priority groups and topics. The industry sectors include areas such as health care, construction and Commercial Fishing. The priority groups are young workers, women, disabled people, and small and medium-sized businesses. The health and safety topics include everything from general work-related accidents to specific health problems.

The Agency therefore brings together large amounts of data, best practice, legislation, statistics and research. Thanks to this, it’s possible to find out almost anything about occupational health and safety across Europe and to compare this to local issues. This makes the Agency a valuable resource as well as a useful guide to current EU law.

7 thoughts on “European Legislation on Health & Safety – Guide to EU Laws

  1. liftie says:

    I’ve been working in the lift industry for 21 years in both England and France and have always been told that we are not aloud to wear shorts in hot weather because of health and safety. At the moment we are going through a hot spell with temperatures of up to 43° which is very tiring and sometimes dangerous. What is the true ruling on this matter 1: Working in extreme heat. 2: Dress code in the work place I thank you in advance

    • Safe Workers says:

      @liftie – Different industries will have different requirements but they can insist on trousers for various reasons regardless. Trousers are often warn to protect the legs in wet, hot and cold condition and to prevent injuries from electrostatic build-up, slipping, cuts and punctures, falling objects, heavy loads, metal and chemical splash etc.

  2. Jobonjo says:

    The store I work in is lovely for the customers but behind the scenes it’s disgusting there’s floods which flow through the entire store the air conditioning filters have not been changed for years I’m always ill I’ve been off sick with chest infection 4 times since December I’ve just been treated for pneumonia now I’m on disciplinary for abcense my co worker has been off for 2 weeks with pneumonia too the company refuse to spend any money on the back of house they think it’s more important to spend money on what the customers want what can I do and what are my rights

  3. billy says:

    My daughter is working on a day club in the Balearic islands, her whole team take drugs and they have isolated and ostracised her as she doesn’t so much so they threaten to spike her drinks etc and she is going to be forced to leave the job several months early for physical and mental well-being. The company will try to charge her loss of money through losing an employee etc but they must have a European responsibility to provide a safe working place

  4. Nelly says:

    I recently suffered a severe kidney infection followed by a collapse due to heat stroke at work during the recent heatwave. In the lead up to my collapse, myself and another teacher complained about the temperature in our rooms which was consistently over 32* because we have floor to ceiling windows that can’t be opened, no airflow due to being at the end of a corridor and no ventilation or air-con. We were advised that the school were not allowed to issue us with fans when we asked for them even though all other areas of the school have air-conditioning or could open windows. Then whilst covering an English teacher’s class who had access to both windows that could open and air-con, I discovered she was also allowed a fan which didn’t make any sense. When I brought this to the attention of managers they did not respond. My doctor thinks that my current ill-health is entirely due to my work conditions. I have been in touch with my Union who have suggested they ask for air-con so that I can go back to work next term. I am very anxious about returning to work for the new management who have such a disregard for their staff well-being and it is making me extremely emotional and anxious. The member of First aid who called the ambulance was told off for doing so by the management even though I was very ill, was kept at the hospital and needed litres of fluid intravenously. I do not want to go back at all. I would really appreciate some advice.

  5. Kenny says:

    I fit smart electric meters and have started to notice that im getting headaches and dizziness and memory loss and think this could be END exposure what are my rights in this situation

  6. Lolo says:

    For 17 months natt accommodation has given me house no hot water cocroches rat the other house was having bedbugs and mould on the wall Now the house is dirty 5 poeple sharing toelet Dr has wrote a letter for me to be isolated as I have health issue

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