Priorities for Consumer Safety in the European Union : Agenda for Action
Amsterdam : European Consumer Safety Association ECOSA, 2001. - 48 p.
(Report ; 249). - ISBN 90-6788-274-7.
Descriptoren: injuries. consumers. Europe. product safety. european policy. government policy. accident prevention. strategies
In Europe accidental injuries are the major cause of death at all ages between 1 and 34 years. Adding all age groups together, there are 80.000 deaths and 40 million medically treated injuries annually due to home and leisure accidents within the European Union (EU). This means almost 225 deaths a day due to home and leisure accidents, which is at least twice as many deaths that occur on the roads in the EU and 14 times the number of deaths in workplaces.There are great variations in measures and infrastructures for consumer safety in Member States and consequently differences in injury rates: injury risks differ between EU-Member States (Finland and France reporting death rates that are almost three times the rates reported in the UK and the Netherlands). There are also great differences between EU-Member States and candidate countries, where the average injury death rates are two times the average in the EU-member states.
Social inequalities also result in significant differences in injury risks among populations (for instance children of parents in unskilled jobs are found to be three to four times more likely to die of an accidental injury). In all levels of society children and senior citizens in particular are among the main risk groups.
The annual economic impact of home and leisure injuries in the EU has been estimated at 230 billion Euros, which is 2.5 times the complete budget of the European Union.
Eight years on from the creation of the Single Market, consumer safety standards in the EU are still incomplete and many countries still lack a basic safety enforcement structure.
On the 27th of September 2001, the European Consumer Safety Association (ECOSA) presented an Action Plan on "Priorities for Consumer Safety in the EU" to David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission, and to the President of the EU-Council of Ministers for Consumer Affairs, Mrs. Magda Aelvoet, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Public Health and Environment of the Federal government of Belgium. The Action Plan was launched before the meeting of the Council of ministers for Internal Market, Consumer Affairs and Tourism in Brussels.
Why we need a European Action Plan?
ECOSA welcomes the Commission's and Member States' commitment to safety issues related to industry, transportation and more recently foodstuffs. But, given the excess numbers in deaths and disabling injuries due to home and leisure accidents, ECOSA urges for a more balanced approach to setting safety priorities. This should lead to increased efforts in protecting consumers from injuries and deaths due to accidents at home and in leisure.
ECOSA's Action Plan also identifies the following key issues as regards home and leisure accidents in Europe:
The result of this is that consumers in Europe are exposed to unacceptable risks in their home and leisure environments. The toll of injuries and deaths in most EU-countries remain excessively high and will be on the increase in an enlarging Europe. This is evidenced by the series of catastrophes that occur in Europe such as fires in hotels and disco's, carbon monoxide poisoning due to failing heating equipment and children severely injured due to collapsing fairground equipment. But also by the continuous stream of isolated events, such as falls from stairs and windows, children scalded by hot tap water and handy men being injured due to failing protective equipment, which add up to incredible numbers of deaths and disabling injuries.
What actions are needed
There is ample evidence that we can reduce the number of fatal injuries and disabilities significantly, for instance, by enforcing strict standards for the flammability of clothing, making smoke detectors mandatory in all homes and regulating the safety of outdoor events. Proper regulation for all EU-Member States, adequate enforcement and focused campaigning for safety at home and in leisure activities will in the end reduce the number of deaths and injuries by at least 25%
Therefore, the Commission and Member States need to move ahead from a fragmented national approach towards genuine collaboration and joint actions. The multiplier effects of European level actions are obvious and will prove to be most cost beneficial by reducing the economic burden of these injuries for the European community. The Commission of the EU has to show leadership in this respect as it has successfully done in the domain of road safety and work safety. This should be done by establishing an action plan for spreading good practices in consumer safety promotion throughout Europe. The Member States should also increase the capacity of their national agencies for consumer protection and safety and ensure a proper functioning of open markets in view of consumers' health and safety in an enlarging European Union.
European Consumer Safety Association ECOSA (2001)