In co-operation with the Netherlands EU Presidency, the European Commission and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched a two-year campaign entitled ‘Healthy Workplaces for All Ages’. This campaign will focus on workplace safety and health, as well as sustainable work in the ageing workforce, and provides a timely reminder that the younger workers of today are the older workers of tomorrow.

The campaign aim is to raise awareness of the importance of good occupational safety and health management and risk prevention throughout the working life and of tailoring work to individual abilities — whether at the start of a worker’s career or at its close. By doing so, organisations will be protecting their workers’ health up to and beyond retirement age, as well as the their own productivity.

This objectives of the campaign are to:

  • promote sustainable work and healthy ageing from the beginning of working life;
  • highlight the importance of risk prevention throughout working life;
  • assist employers and workers (including in small and medium-sized enterprises) by providing information and tools for managing occupational safety and health in the context of an ageing workforce;
  • facilitate information and good practice exchange.

Commissioner Thyssen highlighted the timeliness of this campaign topic: At a time when there are important discussions going on about the future landscape of occupational safety and health in the EU, this campaign is extremely relevant. We need to start now to cater for the needs of Europe’s future workplaces and workers. Workplaces that address the health challenges of an ageing workforce gain in productivity. This is good for workers and good for business.”

Christa Sedlatschek, Director of EU-OSHA, underlined the business case for this campaign topic: “By focusing on sustainable working throughout working life, not only can all workers better protect their health, but companies are likely to see major benefits too. Healthy workers are productive workers, and productive workers are essential to any effective organisation: it’s a win–win situation. We therefore highly value the cooperation between EU-OSHA and our focal points, official campaign partners and media partners and thank them for all their efforts in previous campaigns. We look forward to working with them again over the next two years.”

The British Safety Council has pledged its support for the campaign. Chief Executive Mike Robinson said: “The official retirement age in EU Member States is increasing. In the next two decades, a large proportion of employees over 50 will leave work for ever, taking their market expertise, professional experience and skills with them. Meanwhile the demographic data suggests that there is unlikely to be a sufficient supply of younger people in Britain who would replace retiring workers. These facts cannot be ignored by any employer.

“Retaining older workers will become not only an economic but also a social imperative. The companies that would be prepared to retain older employees will remain more competitive and diverse, with a greater pool of skills and talent. However, longer working lives would mean greater exposure to a variety of health-related risks. The management of issues such as disability prevention, rehabilitation and return to work will increase in importance. Older workers are also more vulnerable to certain hazards, particularly in an industrial work environment. Therefore, the introduction of specific measures to ensure work safety and the efficiency of older employees, as well as age-sensitive risk assessments, would have to become a key part of occupational health and safety policies.”

Key dates in the campaign calendar include the European Weeks for Safety and Health at Work (October 2016 and 2017) and the Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards ceremony (April 2017). The campaign will end with the Healthy Workplaces Summit (November 2017), when all those who have contributed to the campaign will come together with EU-OSHA to take stock of the campaign’s achievements and the lessons learnt.

The campaign website can be found here: Healthy Workplaces for All Ages.