The Government intends that the new Basque occupational health strategy reduce absenteeism

Luz Emparanza Bereciartua, director of Aenor International Basque Country; José Miguel Santamaría, director of EL CORREO; Idoia Mendia, Vice-Lehendakari and Minister of Labor and Employment of the Basque Government; Digna González, Head of Innovation and Development at Bexen Cardio, and María Eugenia Ramos, Head of the Gizagune Foundation. / LUIS ANGEL GÓMEZ

It will take into account the aging of workers, the gender perspective and consequences of stress and the work environment

Carmen Larrakoetxea

The health of workers in its broadest sense, its preservation and improvement, was the focus of all the presentations and debates that took place yesterday at the Healthy Company Forum, organized by CORREO with the sponsorship of Osalan (Basque Institute of Security and Occupational health) and the collaboration of Bexen Cardio, Aenor Confía and Giza Gune Fundazioa. In her speech, the Vice-Lehendakari and Minister of Labor and Employment, Idoia Mendia, advanced the “pillars” of the new Occupational Health Strategy 2021-2025 of the Executive of Vitoria. “And I tell you that it is walking towards a paradigm shift,” he stressed.

The document starts from the basis that health “is not only a right of working people, but an investment for companies.” And echoing one of the main concerns denounced by the Basque employers and large companies, the very high rate of absenteeism from work -the highest in Spain, as the president of Cebek recalled last Tuesday in a forum also organized by this newspaper-, Idoia Mendia specified that “preventing and protecting health is a business obligation, but a business opportunity that, among many other issues, also reduces absenteeism.”

The Vice President of the Republic highlighted the work carried out by the Osalan Institute during the pandemic. In collaboration with companies, he said, it was possible to prevent and limit “extremely contagion in the workplace.” A collective effort that, in his opinion, should be consolidated now, at a time when the return to work has significantly increased occupational accidents.

Mendia advocates overcoming the traditional framework by which “until now the prevention of occupational hazards was based on the job and only on the job,” without taking into account people as a whole, since their physical differences and social factors make them “run different risks or diseases.” The new occupational health strategy for the next four years will involve, he explained, “each and every one of the departments of the Basque Government.” The purpose is that security, “as we have already achieved with equality, is the core of every public action”, in every plan or strategy.

Four pillars

He also announced that “four relevant issues” will be included that will force a rethink of many models. The first is prevention in the face of an aging of the workers that implies more chronic diseases. A basic question in one of the oldest communities in Spain. The gender perspective will also be included, investigating what affects women workers the most.

Work-related stress, depression or anxiety account for half of the days off work in Europe

The effects of digitization will also be taken into account, assuming hyperconnection, monitoring, invisibility, isolation and sometimes precariousness. And finally, psychosocial risks will be managed: how stress affects the worker and their environment. These psychosocial risks, Mendia added, “harm the health of workers and the performance of companies and favor accidents.”

William Cockburn, head of the Prevention and Research Unit of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (Eu-Osha), who also participated in the meeting, found that in Europe three out of five workers “suffer from a related musculoskeletal disorder with their work and one in six has suffered stress, depression or anxiety ”, which implies longer sick leave. In fact, half of the days off are due to work stress.

In another presentation, José Millán, director of the Axa Risk Prevention Chair, gave a historical review of the evolution of occupational health and safety, to state that nowadays factors such as “well-being at work and a good working environment” they have become “essential to retain people” and attract talent.

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