This month, the European Commission, part of the European Union (EU) Strategy on Safety and Health, published a Communication, “Adapting to change in work and society: a new Community strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006”.
In addition to addressing workplace issues such as an aging workforce, prevention culture, legal frameworks and partnerships, the communication also pledges that the EU will maintain vigilance on ergonomics issues. Included is a framework for timely review of current recommendations and standards concerning ergonomics such as directives dealing with heavy loads, computer screen work and vibration. The communication also promises that the commission will propose amendments or new legal provisions in fields in which coverage is still incomplete (e.g. workplace ergonomics) as well as adapt existing legislation to the emerging problem of musculoskeletal complaints.
Other elements of the communication include:
- Setting targets for reducing the toll of injuries, illnesses and resulting sickness absence as part of the EU’S Employment Guidelines.
- Extending awareness of risk factors through education and vocational training.
- Recommendations to include women in research and design of work areas and dimensions. This is to ensure that areas and equipment will be designed to fit the anthropometric specifications of increased women in the workforce.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) of the United Kingdom responded to the communication by saying that it welcomed the European Commission’s five year plan for health and safety but has warned that it will require a serious commitment from governments and real money for implementation.
In other news, the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry announced a partnership between the United Auto Workers Union (UAW), Ford Motor Company, Visteon Corporation and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) to help improve worker health and safety at Ford and Visteon facilities in Michigan.
Ergonomics, noise control and hearing conservation, heat stress and personal protective equipment (PPE) are some of the topics addressed by the partnership which hopes not only to reduce injuries and illnesses at each location, but to create a proactive safety and health culture, and a non-adversarial relationship that stresses cooperation.
Federal OSHA signed a formal partnership agreement with the UAW, Ford and Visteon on Nov. 14, 2000. That agreement covers 21 Ford and two Visteon plants in federal OSHA states. This agreement includes 17 Ford and eight Visteon plants in Michigan.