Employment MEPs call for better protection of workers’ health and safety 

Press Releases 
  • MEPs demand EU directive on psychosocial risks and well-being at work to combat burnout and stress 
  • Target revision of Biological Agents Directive needed to make it fit for pandemic situations 
  • Right to disconnect should be established for all EU workers 

To create safe and healthy workplaces fit for the 21st century, ambitious action is needed, also taking into account the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis

The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) adopted its report on a new EU strategic framework on health and safety at work post 2020 (including better protection of workers from exposure to harmful substances, stress at work and repetitive motion injuries) with 43 votes in favour, 3 against and 8 abstentions, on Tuesday.

Drawing lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic

The report drafted by Marianne Vind (S&D, DK) stresses the need to draw lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and urges the member states to draw up preparedness and response plans for potential future crises in their national OSH strategies. MEPs call for a specific focus on the protection and promotion of the mental health of health care professionals and other frontline workers and for an EU directive on psychosocial risks and well-being at work aimed at the efficient prevention of psychosocial risks in the workplace of, inter alia, anxiety, depression, burnout and stress. Furthermore, the Commission should without delay conduct a targeted revision of the Biological Agents Directive to make it fit to respond to pandemic situations, MEPs say.

With a view to protecting the nearly 50 % of all employees in Europe who are working (partially) remotely since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Members call on the Commission to present legislation establishing minimum requirements for telework across the EU. Employment MEPs also reiterate their demand on the Commission to come forward with a directive on the right to disconnect, in line with Parliament’s resolution of 21 January 2021 with recommendations to the Commission.

“Vision Zero” approach to cover all injuries and accidents, physical and mental attrition

While Members welcome the Commission’s “Vision Zero” approach to work related accidents and diseases and the gender focus on occupational safety and health, they call for the inclusion of all injuries, accidents and physical and mental attrition and for the establishment of a roadmap for the reduction of accidents and deaths at work to complete the transition towards ‘zero fatalities’. MEPs also demand a significantly increased focus on prevention strategies such as strengthening labour inspectorates, national health and safety services and social partner dialogue.

Reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals to combat cancer

With a view to better protecting workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work, the Commission should update EU-rules on occupational exposure limit values of hazardous chemicals for at least 25 additional priority substances without delay. MEPs demand that any proposal for revised exposure limit values for lead and its compounds ensures equal protection for all workers at the workplace regardless of gender. EU laws should protect workers against exposure to endocrine disruptors, they say, and against occupational cancers related to nightshift work. Extra attention is needed for groups that are particularly exposed to hazardous chemicals such as workers in the chemical and agriculture industries, or particularly vulnerable such as pregnant or breastfeeding workers.

As regards protection against exposure to asbestos, accounting for 88,000 work-related deaths annually, MEPs call on the Commission to present a European Strategy for the Removal of All Asbestos in line with Parliament’s resolution of 20 October 2021.

In order to carry out effective and timely inspections designed to stamp out all forms of abuse, the report demands compliance with the ILO recommendation of one labour inspector for 100.000 workers and the involvement of the social partners in the implementation and enforcement of the OSH legislative framework.


"I welcome the broad support for this ambitious report that sends a strong signal to the Commission. It is unacceptable that thousands of workers fall ill because of their job every year. We must do better.

Europe needs robust measures and legislation for the seven-year strategy on health and safety at work to demonstrate that we are serious about improving the lives of millions of European workers. “said Ms Vind after the vote.

Next steps

The full House is set to vote on the report at its March session.


Over 3.300 fatal accidents and 3.1 million non-fatal accidents were recorded in the EU-27 in 2018. More than 200 000 workers die each year from work-related illnesses with cancer being the leading cause of work related deaths, accounting for 52 % of all work-related deaths in the EU. 80 % of all occupational cancers are asbestos related, leading to 88.000 deaths annually.

Moreover, half of all working days lost in the EU are caused by work-related stress.

The European Commission adopted its EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027 - Occupational safety and health in a changing world of work in June 2021.