Workers organisations for health and safety

From 5 to 6 December 2019 took place in St. Julians, Malta, a seminar about “Workers organisations for health and safety”, organized by UHM (Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin), with the support of EZA and of the European Union.

45 representatives of workers’ organizations from Malta, Portugal, Serbia, Poland, Romania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic participated in the seminar.

The most important aspect of the project was to provide information and present experiences on how challenges arising from Health and Safety are tackled. Particular attention was dedicated to explaining the various aspects that impact on the change of patterns at market level that generate effects on health and safety (H&S) such as technology, globalisation, mobility and new forms of employment. The different and high-level profiles of the speakers involved have allowed for a comprehensive discussion and have provided a full picture of the situation, particularly explaining the perspectives of different EU countries and also of different economic sectors. Some presentations have focused on the importance of prevention. This include for example the presentation of the H&S assessment as a standard practice that should be in place at every place of work. Throughout the seminar, it was possible to better understand how workers’ organisations could contribute to deliver to positive effects, particularly how to transform their action into new realities. One of the ideas discussed is to use online solutions available such as OIRA (Online Interactive Risk Assessment) in a more extensive manner also from the workers’ organizations’ side. Mental H&S was also a subject dealt with during the workshop starting from the fact that during our long working life, we will all experience at some point some Mental Health issues, even for a short period of time, and that there are tools that can be put in place at the workplace not only to limit and prevent such issues, but also on how to recognise and tackle them.

Gender issues and H&S was a key topic extensively presented and discussed thanks to the contribution of various speakers and the audience. The specific needs of women shall be taken more into account when designing H&S policies and also when designing H&S equipment. In addition the need of a strong combination between H&S and other welfare policies in favour of women were identified as key elements to encourage more female participation to the labour market, being this an issue for several of the participating countries.

Cases and practices such as the one led by UHM for Port Workers were presented and shared with the aim of providing suggestions and input to adopt similar solutions elsewhere.

Industry 4.0 poses additional challenges and a comprehensive presentation was delivered to identify which areas of life industry 4.0 affects and what are the related H&S new challenges.

Participants were also actively involved at various stages. Primarily they presented and exchanged experiences and solutions adopted at country level were; secondarily they took part in a collective exercise aimed at assessing H&S in terms of the communication challenges and solutions related to it.

At the end of the workshop, participants were actively involved in a collective exercise focused on communication of H&S. The starting point was the difficulty related to the subject per se. H&S is difficult to communicate for a number of reasons and that is why, workers’ organizations have to think carefully on how to approach the matter.

Participants were able to identify and distinguish the main stakeholders for H&S (Workers, Employers, Families and Consumers) the main messages to be communicated to each target group and the different channels to be used to maximise the effects.

The project dealt with an issue that always need attention especially from workers’ organizations. The labour market trends at international level experience a deterioration of the working conditions in specific sectors and the inadequacy to tackle new challenges such as mental health and industry 4.0. The development of the economy towards a gig economy along with the subsequent structural changes in the protection of workers’ rights is a common trend that is being experienced at EU level. In the light of the recent developments, it was very important for unions and workers’ organisations to learn about the factors determining these changes to better identify how to deal with them and translate them into effective H&S policies.

The seminar was therefore an ideal forum for workers’ representatives to better understand their role and possible contribution to the issue and during the discussions.

Project results

  • The participants had an in-depth overview of H&S and available 
  • The participants were exposed to different types of solutions to the problem discussed, both at local or international levels 
  • The participants appreciated the topic and the different challenges linked to H&S particularly Mental Health, Technology and Gender issues
  • Participants were able to identify the main communication targets, messages and channels related to H&S

The organisations concerned represent workers’ and their needs and it is of outmost interest to exchange ideas and methods on how to tackle the new challenges related to H&S. It is also important for representatives of workers’ organisations to understand the future dynamics and possible developments at macro level in order to better contribute to policy development and formation. All the participants can use the information and data provided during the seminar in their daily work.