October 10, 2013
Dr Christa Sedlatschek, director of the European division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (EU-OSHA), has commented about the importance of the relationship between competitiveness and ensuring that workplaces remain healthy and safe places for people to be professionally.
The director is calling, with cross-party support, for a new European Strategy on Health and Safety at Work to clarify this issue. She highlighted that the connection between competitiveness and safe professional environments has been well-documented and researched in the healthcare sector.
Dr Sedlatschek explained that research has proven that countries that have higher fatalities are less competitive, and nations who have fewer deaths are competing at the top of their field.
She said: "Countries with high levels of work-related accidents and ill-health are not making good use of their human capital. In order to be productive, our workforce needs to be at work, ideally fully fit and certainly not in hospital or at home recovering from an injury or illness caused by their job, or worse."
Across Europe, nearly 4,000 workplace fatalities, which equates to 2.8 million people, have had to take at least three days off from work because of an accident. This has a financial consequence for employers all over the continent as this results in 83 million days of work being lost every year, according to the director.
Despite these being high figures, in contrast to the number of days lost due to work-related illnesses, it looks minimal. Nearly 370 million days of work are lost every year because of health problems related to a work-based incident.
Dr Sedlatschek added that this had been the situation across Europe for the past few years, and if employers in the sector want to change it, a number of points have to be addressed. These could be divided into two categories, changes that need to happen in the workforce and things that needed to be altered in the workplace.
The director highlighted that, in a aging and more diverse workforce, there will be a wider range of medical issues that need to be addressed by the employer to ensure that the number of incidents are reduced.