From the TUC

European Commission puts its foot in it!

19 Nov 2015, By

The European Commission have just published an information sheet on their new better regulation agenda. A lot of that is just saying that they will concentrate on the big things and not the small things, that they should do impact assessments before new regulations are considered and EU regulations should be “fit for purpose”. Now I am sure no-one would disagree with any of that. Except it is not what the Commission is doing. For one thing the impact assessments of regulations on health and safety only look at the impact on business, not on the benefits to workers.

However that is a side issue. What I want to deal with is the idea that that they are concentrating on big things and ignoring small things. This is nonsense as is shown by their current work programme.  As I have pointed out in a previous blog, the Commission is refusing to take action on workplace cancers which kill over 100,000 people in Europe every year. They are also dropping proposals to deal with musculoskeletal disorders, the biggest cause of work-related sickness absence in Europe.

That is bad enough, but now they are mocking those who are effected by workplace injuries and illnesses. The information sheet has one slide (the third one) which shows a picture of a hairdresser’s salon with a pair of high heels. It has a cross through it showing that this is one of the small things that the Commission has decided to do nothing about.

It seems to refer to a 2012 story which found its way into the Sun and Mail and was then repeated by Chris Grayling, that the European Commission was planning to ban the wearing of high heels by hairdressers. This was utter nonsense. There was an agreement made between the employers and unions who represent hairdressers at European level on how to deal with the appalling health record. It said, amongst other things, that because of the considerable trip hazard that existed in salons due to the risk of spillages and hair on the floor, workers should “wear suitable clothes for their activities or workwear clothing and, in particular, shoes with non-slip soles.” The agreement also dealt with preventing skin disorders, musculoskeletal diseases and the needs of pregnant workers. After it was produced and agreed the employers and unions asked the European Commission to turn it into a directive so that it could be applied throughout Europe and the Commission refused.

Now that was bad enough but now they are mocking the agreement and the workers affected as being a “small thing”.

So let’s have some facts. There are over one million people who work in the industry. Last year the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work produced a report which showed that a United Kingdom study has reported that 70 % of hairdressers have suffered from work-related skin disorders at some point during their career. In a French study it was found that, while hairdressers represent about 1 % of the entire workforce, 20 % of the women affected by work-related asthma are hairdressers. It is also estimated that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are five times more prevalent among hairdressers.

It is grossly insulting for the Commission to use its resources to, not only peddle a myth (that an agreement was about high heels), but also imply that the health of this group is not important and worthy of the Commissions time.

They should be ashamed of themselves and, as the union confederation representing hairdressers at European level has asked,  remove this from their website immediately.