Saf Health Work.  2019 Mar;10(1):21-29. 10.1016/

Health Promotion at Work: A Comparison of Policy and Practice Across Europe

  • 1Policy Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
  • 2Department of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY, USA.
  • 3Global Research Analytics for Population Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY, USA.


Promoting healthy lifestyles at work should complement workplace safety programs. This study systematically investigates current states of occupational health and safety (OHS) policy as well as practice in the European Union (EU).
OHS policies of EU member states were categorized as either prevention or health promotion provisions using a manifest content analysis. Policy rankings were then created for each prevention and promotion. Rankings compared eight indicators from the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks-2 data on prevention and promotion practices for each member state using Chi-square and probit regression analyses.
Overall, 73.1% of EU establishments take preventive measures against direct physical harm, and about 35.4% take measures to prevent psychosocial risks. Merely 29.5% have measures to promote health. Weak and inconsistent links between OHS policy and practice indicators were identified.
National OHS policies evidently concentrate on prevention while compliance with health and safety practices is relatively low. Psychosocial risks are often addressed in national policy but not implemented by institutions. Current risk assessment methods are outdated and often lack psychosocial indicators. Health promotion at work is rare in policy and practice, and its interpretation remains preventive. Member states need to adopt policies that actively improve health and well-being at the workplace.


Health promotion; Occupational health; Occupational health policy; Occupational health and safety; Workplace health promotion
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