Social dialogue as a tool to promote health and safety at work

EESC opinion: Social dialogue as a tool to promote health and safety at work

Key points


  • Shares the view of the Commission in its 2021-2027 strategy on occupational safety and health (OSH), and sees social dialogue (SD) as instrumental in achieving the three key objectives: anticipating and managing change in the world of work brought about by the green, digital and demographic transitions; improving prevention of workplace accidents and work-related illnesses; and being prepared for any potential future health crises.
  • Recommends a comprehensive and integrated forward-looking analysis of the impact of the digital transition on labour market in order to anticipate the upheavals it will entail and develop a long-term OSH strategy.
  • Recommends that new guidelines be drawn up, with a particular focus on preventing psychosocial risks (PSR) and musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs) and considers the 2002 European Framework Agreement is not suited to meeting the new challenges posed by teleworking.
  • Invites the labour inspectorates to perform inspection of teleworking conditions, at the employee's request and with due regard to privacy in accordance with the national rules.
  • Recommends that the cost of work-related illnesses such as heart disease and burnout be thoroughly monitored in order to pinpoint appropriate measures at the appropriate level in line with Vision Zero.
  • Calls for a culture of prevention to be developed; this should involve training the parties involved in the SD, raising awareness of emerging risks and bolstering and disseminating the resources available.
  • Considers that, under Article 155(2) TFEU, agreements between the social partners shall be implemented in the Member States. The EESC asks the Commission to discuss with the social partners the implementation of autonomous agreements and the process of joint request for Council decision, respecting the autonomy of social partners and following the procedure of article 155 TFEU.
  • Encourages the development of benchmarks and ready-to-use risk assessment tools, which are particularly useful for very small and medium-sized enterprises. SMEs need the right guidance, training and financial support to comply with OSH obligations.
  • Calls for a system to be put in place to assess the impact of the legislative initiatives, collective agreements and European action plans in this area, and reiterates its recommendation[1] of one labour inspector for every 10 000 workers.
  • With regard to combating work-related cancer, the EESC calls for a more ambitious position covering the 50 priority carcinogens, as well as reprotoxic substances and hazardous medicinal products, and including stress[2] and shift work[3].
  • Calls for EU legislation on PSR. An effective preventive approach requires action to be taken with regard to the working environment rather than focusing solely on the mental health of the individual.
  • Considers that the development of a comprehensive, long-term and integrated prevention policy requires the reactivation of the draft MSD Directive.
  • Calls for the Artificial Intelligence Act[4] to be amended. The EESC recommends making third party conformity assessments obligatory for all high-risk AI.
  • Calls for platform workers to be included in the scope of the strategic framework. The right to organise, be represented and to engage in collective bargaining should be guaranteed, and social protection rights extended to these workers.

[1]           SOC/698.



[4]           European Commission (2021), Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised rules on artificial intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act) and amending certain Union legislative acts, COM(2021) 206 final.

This exploratory opinion, requested by the French Presidency of the EU, has the following objectives:

  • Indicate how quality social dialogue could strengthen the prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases;
  • Identify the specific actions that need to be taken to ensure effective implementation of Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) measures;
  • Describe the conditions for the concrete involvement of the social partners in OSH measures
  • Provide tools to support those involved in social dialogue in order to improve the management of health issues at work in regions and businesses;
  • Provide measures to strengthen social dialogue in OSH policies accordingly.

The opinion will help facilitating the implementation of the Commission’s new strategic framework and EU OSH legislation.