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7 Nov 2022

Claes-Mikael Stahl, EUobserver

Europe: Progress on workplace safety at risk as number of deaths rise, says European Trade Union Institute

"Cut 'red tape' — and watch EU workplace deaths rocket", 3 Nov 2022

An analysis of newly-published Eurostat data by the European Trade Union Institute found that fatal workplace accidents are on the rise in 12 EU member states, most notably in Italy (+285)...

There has, of course, been huge progress made over the last few decades in making workplaces safer thanks to stronger legislation and collective bargaining agreements, but our figures show that progress is coming to a halt in some countries and being completely reversed in others.

There has been a successful corporate pushback against what their spin doctors branded "red tape".

For example, the number of people being injured by machinery in Europe has increased over the last decade following a European Commission decision to scrap third-party safety checks as part of its deregulation policy — pushed for by business lobbyists.

There are new risks to workers' lives emerging too, none more so than climate change. 60-year-old cleaning worker José Antonio González collapsed and died of a heart attack after being forced to sweep the streets of Madrid in temperatures of over 40 degrees...

Last month, 26-year-old Sebastian Galassi was working as a food courier for Glovo in Florence when he was hit and killed by an SUV [Glovo comment available here].

The investigation into his death is still ongoing but research shows algorithms which manage platform work are pushing riders to go faster and take more risks to win more work.

As the threats to workers' safety change and grow, then so must the laws to protect them...

As a wake-up call, the ETUC has launched its Zero Death at Work campaign which challenges politicians at EU and national level to commit to taking the actions needed to eradicate these avoidable tragedies.

For example, by reversing the huge cuts that were made to workplace safety inspections in the name of austerity. The number of inspections fell by 18 percent across the EU during the previous decade, leaving too many workplaces completely unprepared for the pandemic as well as being more likely to be the scene of fatal accidents.

Beyond accidents, there also needs to be a renewed push to eradicate occupational cancer — something which still today claims the lives of over 100,000 people every year.