KANBrief 2/14

German and French OSH communities issue a common declaration of their position

On 25 March 2014 in Bonn, KAN joined the French OSH institutes EUROGIP and INRS in signing a common declaration on standardization policy in the field of occupational safety and health (pdf). The declaration sets out the signatory institutions' basic positions concerning current developments in standards policy which are to serve as guidance for their further joint efforts with regard to standardization.

The shift of standardization activity to the international level, new deliverables, the growing standardization of services and management systems, and the role of standardization in the safety and health of workers at work: these are among the numerous challenges currently presented by standardization policy. EUROGIP, the INRS and KAN have long been addressing these topics and developments, and are seeking through this declaration to reinforce and propagate their common positions in discussions at European level.

The declaration was co-ordinated with the social partners represented in the signatory institutions and signed in Bonn on 25 March on the occasion of KAN's 20th anniversary celebrations. Raphaël Haeflinger, Director of EUROGIP, reminded those present of the milestones that have already been passed in European co-operation, such as the launch of EUROSHNET, the European network for occupational safety and health experts, and the Cracow Memorandum, upon which the common declaration builds. New issues such as the development of an ISO standard for OSH management systems are precisely why Haeflinger considers it essential for European OSH representatives to draw up common positions.

This can also be seen from the current negotiations concerning a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). French and German OSH groups are calling upon the European Commission and the European standards organizations to ensure that the high standard of product safety enshrined in the EU treaties be respected and not be overridden for example by the mutual recognition of statutory provisions and standards.

In the view of Nathalie Guillemy, Director of the INRS head office in Paris and standing in for INRS Director-General Stéphane Pimbert, it is more important than ever that the occupational safety and health lobby work together across national borders. The declaration reflects the view shared by the bodies that standardization is an effective prevention instrument and must be used consistently.

CEN Workshop Agreements (CWAs) must therefore be rejected as a means of regulating occupational safety and health, since in contrast to conventional standards, they do not by definition reflect a consensus between all stakeholders. In their declaration, EUROGIP, the INRS and KAN call upon the standards organizations to distinguish clearly – formally and visually – between standards and new deliverables, in order to rule out any risk of users confusing the two.

Norbert Breutmann, Chairman of KAN, stressed that the internationalization of standardization and the ever shorter development times must not be allowed to impact negatively upon the quality of standards. Standards are required that can be applied worldwide whilst at the same time satisfying the strict European safety requirements. Breutmann also considered it important that the OSH aspect be monitored closely during standardization work in new areas such as services and qualifications, in order for conflicts with the national body of regulations and an escalation in certification to be prevented.

Adding substance to the declaration

The common declaration is now to be discussed with standards organizations, the European Commission, and further stakeholders. For this purpose, it has already been presented (on 8 April 2014) to the CEN Strategic Advisory Body for Occupational Health and Safety (CEN/ SAB OSH). Plans are also for it to be presented to the Standardisation Group of the European Commission's Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work.

The French and German signatories expressly invite partners from other countries to adopt the declaration in order for the common positions on standardization policy in the sphere of OSH to be reinforced, developed further and implemented in practice. Occupational safety and health requires a strong voice at European as well as national level. The common declaration is a step towards this.

R. Haeflinger

S. Pimbert

N. Breutmann