Closing Remarks

Closing Remarks
6th Joint US/EU Conference on Occupational Safety and Health
Boston, Massachusetts
September 22, 2010

Armindo Silva
Armindo Silva

Armindo Silva
Director, DG EMPL
European Commission

Mr. John Howard,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We come to the end of three busy, participative and rewarding days here in Boston. Of three great days. The reports from the working groups and the feedback from delegates tell me that we had a very successful conference.

We have made tangible progress on the subject matters which were on the agenda. However, we did not limit ourselves to exchange information. We engaged ourselves in open discussions. On the EU side we learned a lot, not only from what you told us, but also from the discussions among yourselves.

This degree of openness is only possible where the two sides share the same values and the same goals, irrespective of the legislative and institutional differences between the occupational safety and health systems in the US and the EU.

These days in Boston confirmed that we share a common vision: a world with much reduced work-related illness and disability. In order to make it true, we all need to identify best practices to keep workers safe and improve safety and health for all our fellow-citizens at the workplace.

Our work is not finished today! Looking to the future, we should build on the progress which we have been able to make, and on the new friendships and networks which we were able to establish in the course of this three-day conference.

A proper evaluation will be carried out in the EU Advisory Committee with stakeholders and then together with our US partners in the Joint Committee. Without prejudging the outcome, I believe that we should continue on the path which we have been following since the 1995 New Transatlantic Agenda. This means first of all that we should begin deliberations regarding a next joint conference to be organised in Europe in two years time.

Then, inevitably the question arises as to how we can meet the wishes expressed by many delegates for a more permanent exchange in-between Conferences. This question has been discussed by all thematic groups and their chairs made a number of interesting suggestions during the presentation of the reports.

Looking ahead we need to be selective and commit ourselves to develop only those themes where we have possibilities to deliver. International cooperation should not be seen as an add-on but as a source of real value added for policy development on both sides.

I suggest that we give priority to those themes that match the three following criteria:

  1. They should be concrete and easily identifiable;
  2. They should entail the possibility of exchanging significant knowledge;
  3. They should correspond to the key priorities of both sides.

Over the next two years, at EU level, the European Commission will work together with Member States in updating the EU legislation (focusing in particular on ergonomics, electro-magnetic radiation, environmental tobacco smoke and carcinogens).

We shall also work upstream in identifying new sources of workplace risks and developing effective prevention mechanisms (focusing on nanomaterials, chemicals and psychosocial factors).

We shall continue to implement the Better Regulation agenda in order to simplify legislation and reduce the weight of unnecessary administrative burden. We shall be evaluating the on-going EU Strategy on Safety and Health and prepare the new post 2013 Strategy.

The EU Occupational Safety and Health Agency will be focusing their priorities on the implementation of the awareness raising campaign on maintenance and prepare the next one on leadership and workers' involvement. They will also develop a number of concrete projects, such as the On-line Instrument for Risk Assessment.

I am sure that we shall be able to identify jointly those themes on which we shall be able to develop a more permanent form of collaboration. I am particularly pleased that an exchange project between OSHA and the NIOSH on awareness campaigns is being designed as a concrete outcome of this Conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, I wish to thank our hosts of OSHA not only for their very efficient organisation of this Conference, which was to be expected, but also for their warm and friendly reception. I thank in particular the chairs and co-chairs of the four working groups, and all participants, for the lively and productive way they have approached discussion on conference topics.

On behalf of the European Commission, we look forward to the next opportunity for partnership and cooperation with our US colleagues and friends.