Dr Karen McDonnell

03 August 2016

How a Europe-wide campaign aims to protect workers’ health.

I have written several times in the past about the importance of making sure those at the beginning of their careers are kept safe and healthy, and that this continues throughout their working life.

It’s clear that, regardless of all the advances made in workplace health and safety, new workers are still suffering from 'old' problems, the ones with seemingly simple solutions that we don’t seem to be able to eradicate.

Earlier this year RoSPA’s National Occupational Safety and Health Committee (NOSHC) completed its inquiry into health and safety arrangements for apprentices, who are likely to be more at risk than other workers due to lack of skills, knowledge and experience. The results of that inquiry are due to be released soon, however I’m happy to share, that as anticipated, it has identified a need for far clearer and practical official advice on the types and levels of checks that should be carried out by organisations when placing trainees. I’ll write more on this in a future column.

But in the meantime, in April the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) quietly launched its 2016-17 campaign, Healthy Workplaces for All Ages, which addresses not only the issues for apprentices, but also for people throughout their working lives.

It has been launched following a pilot project, called Safer and Healthier Work at Any Age, which ended in January and investigated ways to improve the health and safety of older people at work. The European Parliament recognised that the ageing workforce will have a serious financial impact on workers, employers and taxpayers, with the project assessing the prerequisites for health and safety strategies and systems to take account of this ageing workforce, and ensure better prevention.

The results of the pilot, which you can see at, are now being fed into policy development, provide examples of successful practices, and informed the campaign.

EU-OSHA identified that the workforce across Europe is ageing, along with ageing populations and rising retirement ages, and while trying to meet this challenge it wants to promote workplaces as being good for physical and mental health, in which employers can play a major part.

The campaign has four key objectives, namely:

  • Promoting sustainable work and healthy ageing from the start of the working life
  • Preventing health problems throughout the working life
  • Providing ways for employers and workers to manage occupational safety and health in the context of an ageing workforce
  • Encouraging the exchange of information and good practice.

I encourage readers of my column to find out what they can do to take part in the campaign – participation is open to individuals as well as organisations of all sizes. Please share what you do through the HSE’s Helping GB Work Well web pages, and engage with others through social media. See

As a matter of good practice, managers should allow workers to raise issues and encourage them to help find solutions and engender a supportive environment with effective communication, while workers should be sharing their knowledge, helping to identify problems and to find and implement solutions. HR policies should support health and safety management for all age groups.

Getting involved in the campaign can only help to achieve and further these aims.

There are many events throughout the campaign, with two European Weeks for Safety and Health at Work (in October 2016 and 2017), Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards in April, and a Healthy Workplace Summit in November next year.

Organisations getting involved are encouraged to issue campaign materials, organise their own events and activities, use age management tools, take part in the Awards and Weeks, and to become an official or national campaign partner.

You can follow the campaign on social media, or go to to find out more.

Dr Karen McDonnell, occupational safety and health policy adviser at RoSPA