Occupational health nurses were urged to unite across Europe to seize a leading role in workplace health against a backdrop of tough challenges in many countries at last month’s Congress of the Federation of Occupational Health Nurses in the European Union (FOHNEU).
FOHNEU president Julie Staun said that OH nurse practitioners were the best placed group to lead the European Commission’s (EC) health and safety strategy, launched in February this year.
“This requires bridging the gap from theory to practice, and promoting the empowerment of the workforce,” Staun told delegates. “As the largest single group of professionals in the field, occupational health nurses are in a pivotal position to ensure this is implemented.”
Keynote speaker Dr Francisco Jesús Alvarez Hidalgo, principle administrator at the EC’s health and safety unit, stressed the role of OH in the European Union’s (EU) Lisbon Strategy to boost European competitiveness. He emphasised the importance of providing services to small and medium-sized enterprises and developing national strategies. He also said the framework health and safety directive would help improve access to OH services.
Staun said the requirement in the directive for ‘competent practitioners’ should put OH nurses in the driving seat in extending OH services to workers across the EU.
She told delegates that FOHNEU had a “solid platform” in the main EU bodies, including the EC, the EU Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the EU Foundation , and the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH).