20 Jul 2021

European Union adopts the Vision Zero approach

European Union adopts the Vision Zero approach

The European Commission recently published the EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027. The strategy adopts the Vision Zero approach to eliminate work-related deaths in the European Union (EU). This demonstrates how Vision Zero, developed by the International Social Security Association (ISSA), is moving from a campaign to become a strategic tool.

As included in the European Pillar of Social Rights, occupational safety and health (OSH) is of high priority for the EU. The pandemic has demonstrated in a dramatic way the importance of ensuring workers’ safety and health. The new strategic framework also makes OSH a crucial element in the EU’s efforts to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis. 

Figures show that before the pandemic the EU had managed to make important progress in this area. Work-related deaths were reduced by 70 per cent between 1994 and 2018. Still, in 2018, there were 3.1 million accidents at work, of which 3,300 were fatal. The EU is therefore setting new ambitions and to achieve them will take the Vision Zero approach.

“We must commit to a 'vision zero' approach when it comes to work-related deaths in the EU. Being healthy at work is not only about our physical state, it is also about our mental health and well-being”, EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, stated in a press release

The new EU strategy has three key objectives: 

  1. Anticipating and managing change in the new world of work
  2. Improving prevention of work-related diseases and accidents
  3. Increasing preparedness for possible future health threats

Vision Zero will play a key role in the achievement of the second objective. “All efforts must be deployed to reduce work-related deaths as much as possible, in line with a Vision Zero approach to work-related deaths in the EU”, the strategy says. In order to achieve this, the key actions point will be: 

  • Improving data collection on accidents at work and occupational diseases, and analysing the root causes for each work-related death or injury;
  • setting up a tripartite working group on Vision Zero under the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work (ACSH), and developing targeted information actions and tools to increase awareness;
  • strengthening enforcement by supporting the Senior Labour Inspectors Committee (SLIC) in increasing awareness on reducing work-related deaths at company level, sharing good practices, and supporting increased training for labour inspectorates.

Among the almost 12,000 companies, partners and trainers from Europe that have signed up to the Vision Zero campaign, is the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). The International Social Security Association will support the EU efforts through mobilising its members and networks, and through dialogue in relevant European and international fora.