Continued investment is needed in workplace health and safety, for economic as well as ethical reasons, according to the latest annual report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

The agency has also confirmed it will present the final results of the evaluation of the current Strategy by the end of this year.

“Now more than ever we need to make the case for ‘good work’ in safe and healthy workplaces”, said Dr Christa Sedlatschek, the Head of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

In her first annual report as director she describes the new pressures to cut back on occupational safety and health (OSH) in a harsher economic climate:

“For many companies, simply surviving in business has become their main focus. Organisations need to remember, though, that good workplace health and safety is vital, not only for ethical reasons, but also for economic competitiveness.”

As the annual report makes clear, EU-OSHA continued in 2011 to reach new audiences with messages about the importance of OSH, and continued to argue that, even in difficult times, devoting time and resources to OSH is an investment, not a cost, and good OSH is good for business.

Highlights of the year include developments in the Agency’s flagship Foresight project, which is aiming to anticipate longer-term workplace risks (initially in relation to ‘green’ jobs), and help decision-makers to take action to prevent them.

Another main project has been the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), which, for the first time, gives us a real-time picture of how some important workplace risks are being managed in Europe. In 2011 the process began of carrying out secondary analysis of the data that the survey collected.

2011 saw the official launch of the Online interactive Risk Assessment tool (OiRA), which is the legacy of the Healthy Workplaces Campaign on Risk Assessment 2008-09. The OiRA tool generator, which the Agency is making available for free, will help small companies across the EU to carry out risk assessments in a simple and cost-effective way.

The Agency also produced a number of publications on good practices in OSH in the road transport sector.

Finally, 2011 was the second and final year of the Healthy Workplaces Campaign on Safe Maintenance. The Healthy Workplaces Campaigns are now the largest of their kind in the world. The most recent campaign has seen record levels of involvement, as it raised awareness of the importance of maintenance for workers’ safety and health, and the need to carry it out safely.

By the end of the year, the Commission is due to present the final results of the evaluation of the current Strategy and, depending on its results, a new strategy on health and safety at work for adoption in 2013.

This was confirmed by the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor at the Danish Presidency Conference on Health and Safety at Work in Copenhagen on 28 June.