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Brussels mulls rewards for companies improving work safety

Feb '07
The European Commission is set to promote a new EU target of a 25 percent reduction in the number of work-related accidents across the union, suggesting that member states could provide cash or a cut in social contributions for companies that opt to introduce increased health and safety measures.

Social policy commissioner Vladimir Spidla will unveil the bloc's new strategy for health and safety at work on Wednesday (21 February) with the main goal being for the EU to cut by a quarter "the incidence of accidents at work and occupational illnesses" by 2012.

According to the draft document - seen by EUobserver - "the overall economic cost of problems associated with health and safety at work for the EU amounts to 2-3 percent of its GDP," and this "huge cost" harms the bloc's economic growth and competitiveness.

The paper argues that activities carried out by member states and coordinated by Brussels over the past five years have led to a 17 percent drop in accidents at work and a 23 percent decrease in longer-term absences due to workplace illness.

But according to the commission's statistics, more than a third of European workers still say their jobs are harmful for their health, with some types of occupational illnesses becoming more common - such as infections and psychological stress-related problems.

Each year, over 350,000 workers are forced to change jobs after an accident, 300,000 suffer permanent disability and 15,000 cannotre-enter the labour market.

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