european unionA draft international standard on health and safety at work failed last month to get the necessary two-thirds majority vote in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) committee that is developing it. It will now have to be reviewed and voted on again.

“This is a battle won by the unions against provisions that would leave workers worse off,” according to the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).

A blame-the-worker system?

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) argued that the draft standard (ISO 45001) was designed to shift responsibility for any workplace safety and health incidents onto the workers when worker participation in OHS administration and management had been written out, and that adopting it could lead to "a blame-the-worker system."

The ITUC also said the draft is at odds with International Labour Organisation (ILO) occupational health and safety (OHS) conventions. The ITUC’s call was backed by Public Services International and other international trade union federations who had been monitoring the standard’s development and even questioned why there should be one.

Scapegoats, not solutions

"Behavioural safety doesn’t resolve workplace health and safety problems, it buries them. It finds workforce scapegoats, not management solutions," said the ITUC in a statement.

Unions characterized the draft as “business-friendly,” noting that a July, 2014 version of it omitted any reference to employer responsibility for OHS. The European Union’s (EU) 1989 Framework Directive requires employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

The ITUC reports that only four of 83 experts involved in the working group hammering out the draft are from workers’ organisations.

The standard was initially expected to be adopted before the end of 2016.