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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
June 3, 2010

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European organisations uneasy over stress

Work-related stress is as great a concern for European managers as workplace accidents, according to the results of a comprehensive pan-European survey.

Conducted during spring 2009, the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) comprised 36,000 interviews with managers and health and safety professionals working in organisations with ten or more employees, based in 31 European countries.

The first findings of the survey, which were released today (3 June) by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), showed that concern about psychosocial work risks, such as stress, violence and harassment, is increasing in European organisations.

Overall, 79 per cent of those surveyed expressed anxiety about work-related stress – rising to 84 per cent and 91 per cent, respectively, in education and health/social care – but little more than a quarter have the necessary systems in place to manage the issue. The UK fares much better, with 57 per cent of organisations surveyed claiming to have procedures in place – second only to Sweden.

Speaking at a conference on the Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work (2007-2012), in Barcelona, EU-OSHA director Jukka Takala said: “With the financial crisis in full swing, 79 per cent of European managers voice their concern about stress at work, which is already recognised as an important burden on European productivity.

“But despite the high levels of concern, it is clearly worrying that only 26 per cent of EU organisations have procedures in place to deal with stress. The ESENER survey highlights the importance of providing effective support for enterprises to tackle stress, which will be crucial in ensuring we have the healthy productive workforce needed to boost European economic performance and competitiveness”.

The survey also shows that 42 per cent of managers consider it more difficult to tackle psychosocial risks compared with other safety and health issues. Lack of awareness and understanding (50 per cent) and the sensitivity of the subject (53 per cent) are the main barriers for dealing effectively with psychosocial issues, according to the research.

Employee participation appears to be a key factor in the successful implementation of health and safety measures – especially in the case of small companies, where it is an important trigger for effective management of psychosocial risks. Measures to deal with psychosocial risks are applied about twice as often by organisations that consult their employees when compared with those that design measures without employee input.

The UK figures show that while 85 per cent of organisations said they take measures to support employees’ return to work following long-term sickness absence, the country is near the bottom of the European league in terms of how many organisations (20 per cent) monitor their employees’ health through regular medical examinations.

The full ESENER report is available at and the results can be viewed online via an interactive mapping tool at

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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