European regulation is good for you (Part 2)
Earlier this week I posted a blog about an EU evaluation of the European occupational safety and health directives. I complained that the Commission had not published the report, although a joint opinion by union, employer and government representatives was available.
Well now, because of an apparent mistake by an Irish employers organisation, we can all read the report. IBEC, the business lobby group have published a copy of the report and the summary and you can read it here.
It is far too detailed to give a full summary but, as expected, it says that the EU framework is coherent with few overlaps. The regulations have also been transposed into national states well with very few problems. Over all the effect is good, especially for workers health and safety, and there is no evidence of the regulations being a burden.
So what about the recommendations that the report makes?
There is quite a bit on worker representation where it says, amongst other things, that “Strong evidence suggests that employee representation has noticeable influence on the proportion of establishments performing risk assessments and an even more pronounced impact on other key requirements.” It also highlights a number of problems. Unfortunately there are no recommendations on this. This is a real missed opportunity.
One very welcome proposal however is that the EU should adopt all ILO conventions on safety. (Page 346). It was part of the TUC’s manifesto on health and safety last year.
On some of the occupational health issues, the paper is a bit week. For instance it recognises that musculoskeletal disorders are a real problem that needs to be addressed, but then sidesteps the issue of how we effectively address it, which is an MSD directive. Recommendation 2.1 (page 428) simply recommends guidance, some more research and possibly enabling legislation.
Nevertheless, recommendation 2.2, on stress, although this is worded very cautiously, does seem to recommend regulation, although the recommendation is really for an assessment of prescriptive material suitable for legislation. That however is a big step forward.
Recommendation 3.2 on enforcement is something that the TUC would strongly welcome, especially the first part with an obligation to enforce in the Framework Directive.
The last point I would highlight is recommendation 3.3 on risk management. I am not convinced that compliance is as high as is claimed, especially in SMEs, however this recommendation does move away from simple risk assessment to the overall risk management process. I generally agree with most of the recommendations, including the one on health surveillance, although I think it is wider and should include occupational health provision. The final bullet point is the only mention that employee representatives get in the recommendations.
Overall, the research comes out with a lot of really useful evidence. It is just a pity that the recommendations did not reflect the strength of the evidence. Nevertheless, the overall report is a strong weapon that demolishes all the Government’s rhetoric about European health and safety regulation being a “burden”. We should use it.