Education personnel
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Occupational health

Europe | Occupational Health and Safety in education: the priorities for 2022

Secretariat Education and Solidarity Network
March 2, 2022

We don’t need to prove anymore that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the occupational health and safety (OSH) of teachers, academics and other education personnel across Europe seriously deteriorated. Faced with an unprecedented difficult situation, many legislative safeguards did not prove adequate to protect workers’ rights in terms of health and safety.An article from the European Trade Union Committee for Education.

While the pandemic is far from being over, the European Parliament is currently discussing the new EU Strategic Framework for Health and Safety at Work (2021-2027), released on 28 June 2021 by the European Commission. The EU Parliament’s report is indicatively expected to take place on 7 March 2022 in the Parliament plenary.

In answer to this initiative, on 16 November 2021, the ETUCE Committee adopted an ETUCE Statement that expresses the views of education personnel on the initiatives of the new EU OSH Strategic Framework, as this Framework is having a clear impact on the education sector.

Here is an overview of the topics in the context of the Strategic Framework which will be of interest for education trade unions in 2022:

  • Recognising COVID-19 as an occupational disease and the impact of long-COVID: As some countries[1] still define COVID-19 as an ‘accident at work’, in 2022, ETUCE will continue advocating for the recognition of the COVID-19 virus as an ‘occupational disease’. ETUCE will also conduct further research on the long-term effects of COVID on the health and safety of workers and students in the education sector.
  • Addressing the disrupting impact of psychosocial risks in education: The ETUCE Statement advocates for integrating psychosocial risks in the lists of occupational diseases and for adequate legislative measures at EU level to address them. ETUCE further calls on the EU and members states to conduct research to assess the impact of COVID-19 and increasing digital education on psychosocial risks and well-being of education workers. This will also be a priority for ETUCE that proposed a new social dialogue project to prevent and counter psychosocial risks in education, including an assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for 2022-2023.
  • Eliminating asbestos in education institutions: In 2021, ETUCE took part in the lobbying action of the trade union movement to lower the binding value for exposure to asbestos in Europe. Following the Resolution of the European Parliament in October 2021, the European Commission plans to present a proposal to improve the current legislation on asbestos at work for the third quarter of 2022. ETUCE will continue calling for greater efforts in reviewing the current Directive on asbestos at its core rather than simply lowering the thresholds of the cancerous substance.
  • Countering musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) for education workers: In its Statement, ETUCE calls for more concrete efforts of the EU to prevent and combat musculoskeletal disorders which remain the main work-related physical diseases affecting the education sector. This includes putting forward a proposal for a EU Directive on work-related MSDs. Besides, for the second consecutive year, ETUCE will be active as an official partner of the EU-OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Campaign to combat and prevent MSDs.
  • Reinforcing the fight against (third-party) violence and harassment in education: ETUCE calls for an integration of the prevention of and combat against cyber-harassment which is currently not mentioned in the proposed EU Strategic Framework. It is also crucial for ETUCE to establish more synergies between EU measures and the ILO Convention No. 190 on Violence and Harassment when implementing the actions within the OSH Strategic Framework. In 2022, ETUCE will continue participating as an associated partner in the implementation of the multi-sectoral social dialogue project on third-party violence led by EPSU.

ETUCE invites its member organisations to engage in the upcoming ETUCE activities on OSH to achieve a framework that provides a real added value for the health and safety of the teaching profession.

The ETUCE Statement on the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at work for 2021-2027 can be found here

[1]  (i.e. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain) Source: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/7870049/13464590/KS-FT-21-005-EN-N.pdf/d960b3ee-7308-4fe7-125c-f852dd02a7c7?t=1632924169533

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