• Algis Junevicius Kaunas University of Technology



European Union, health and safety at work, risk assessment


Safety and health at work comprises all preventative measures aimed at protecting functional capacity, health and life of employees at work which are used or planned at all operational stages of the company to protect employees from occupational risks or minimise these risks. The main objective of occupational safety and health is to maintain and develop health, safety and work ability of the employee, as well as to prevent occupational accidents and illnesses. In a democratic country every human has got an inborn and constitutional right to free choice of work and business, as well as to have favourable, safe and healthy working conditions. Every employee must be provided with secure and healthy working environment irrespective of the activities of the company, type of employment contract, number of employees, profitability of the company, work place, working environment, nature of work, duration of the working day or shift, citizenship, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, social background, political or religious beliefs of the employee. Employers have a general duty to ensure the safety and health of workers in every aspect related to work. The main role of the European Union in health and safety is to harmonize workplace and legal standards and remove barriers to trade across member states.  The directives of the EU set out minimum requirements and fundamental principles, such as the principle of prevention and risk assessment, as well as the responsibilities of employers and employees. The Framework Directive with its wide scope of application as well as further directives focusing on specific aspects of safety and health at work are the fundamentals of European safety and health legislation. European directives are legally binding and have to be transposed into national laws by the Member States. The current EU Strategy for the period 2007-2012 is focussing on prevention. In the Commission's view, the overall objective during this period should be to reduce by 25% the total incidence rate of accidents at work. To achieve this objective it calls for action by players at all levels – European, national, local and workplaces. National and EU policies should help to create working environments and occupational health services which enable workers to play a full and protective part in working life until they reach old age.

This article reveals an empoyer responsibility to guarantee safe and healthy working conditions for employees, in accordance with EU legislation and policy. Equally, this article highlights the importance of risk assessment. Risk assessment is the cornerstone of the European approach to occupational safety and health. It is the key to preventing accidents and illness at work and occupational risks must be assessed in every company. Risk assessment enables employers to understand the action that they need to take, to eliminate or minimise the risks to their employees. If the risk assessment process is not done well or not done at all, the necessary preventive measures are unlikely to be identified or put in place. It must be remembered that risk assessment is the start of the process of safety and health management. Good health and safety is good business, and proper risk assessment is worth investing in.







Legal Aspects of European Integration