Closing Remarks US/EU Meeting

Jose Ramon Biosca De Sagastuy
San Francisco, November, 2000

Ladies and Gentlemen:

When on the first day, I think it was Mr Scannell, mentioned something about a gold nugget in our bags, me being a Catalan, (money - crazy as a Scot) I plunged frenetically into my bag, just in case that was true.

Then I realised that what Ms. DeMesme-Gray provided us was a whole gold mine named:

  • Friendship and enhanced cooperation
  • Constructive contrasting of opinions
  • Mutual understanding and learning from each other

And above all, the sharing of a common goal: a world with increasingly better living and working conditions where companies compete in price and quality without putting lives at risks. (Thank you Jackie)

This conference and the one held in Luxembourg two years ago have been the first two shovels of the exploitation of this golden opportunity, breaking the ground for what could be a very fruitful and profitable business from both sides.

It was only natural that in these first two conferences that differences of approach and methodology towards that common goal came to light. As the discussions progressed it became clear that these differences become minimal when we also experience how our prevention policies work out in practical terms at work place level. Let's have an example and that provides the opportunity to say something that the EU delegation would not pardon me if I didn't mentioned in the final remarks.

The tripartite approach is fundamental in EU system and is established by law. On the one hand, public authorities fixed the levels of protection that are acceptable for the society as a whole and, on the other hand, the employer is responsible for the health and safety of the workers. Full participation of the workers who care about their own safety and the safety of the other workers working alongside them, is required for the set up of the prevention strategy integrated at all levels of the enterprise.

The level of participation of the US employers in the worker rights and participation group would seem to indicate that employers participation is not only a sensitive issue in the US but is not considered important.

However, in discussing the differences the gold ore of the EU/US cooperation mine comes to light, we discovered that we have common concerns and common problems that could benefit from a joint effort from both sides of the Atlantic in its analysis and in finding innovative solutions. I believe now it's time to focus our future action on those.

That leads me to some reflections about the future of this joint cooperation. Take then just a few ideas that come to mind. Ideas that would need further definition and discussion among ourselves before materializing in actions, but that I believe deserve consideration by our Steering Committees.

  • Firstly, we have a concrete achievement in place, which is the Joint Web page. I believe that this should be the channel for the continuous flow of information from both sides of the Atlantic and expanded with information about research needs and results, and data bases of good practices.
  • Secondly, it became apparent from the discussions in the groups that there is a need for a good harmonised and coherent system to measure performance and efficiency at company level as regards Health and Safety. The development and agreement of a common set of indicators to do so is also required.
  • Thirdly, common case-study/researches on given industrial sectors on how prevention policy is practically implemented. This should cover all aspects from management of health and safety, tele-workers, information, training, education and involvement.
  • Fourthly, to share experience on how to boost safety and health awareness in SME's, and possibly develop more legislative tools.

Well, I think I have provided enough food for thought for our respective Steering Committees at lunch time. I believe that by focusing on what we have in common rather that on our differences we can make our gold mine very productive indeed.

I do not want to end my concluding remarks without thanking in the name of the EU delegation the US delegation for your hospitality, we have really felt at home here, for the frankness and openness of the discussions and for all your efforts in making this conference a success. I would like, also to thank OSHA, in particular Ms. DeMesme-Gray and her team, for the unnoticed amount of work deployed behind the scenes in making this event happen and finally to the interpreters for their linguistic contribution to our mutual understanding.

Thank you,