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Workers in the UK are more confident than their European counterparts that health and safety issues would be addressed once they have been raised with their employer.
Out of 36 countries surveyed in an Ipsos MORI pan-European poll on occupational health and safety, the UK scored the highest percentage of workers who said they are ‘very confident’ that health and safety issues would not be ignored by their employer – 71 per cent compared with 40 per cent across Europe as a whole. Overall, 91 per cent of UK workers believe that a health and safety problem would be addressed, but employees in small companies are less confident than workers in larger organisations.
The survey, commissioned by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), comprised more than 35,500 interviews between October 2011 and January this year. It found that the proportion of people who feel ‘very well informed’ about occupational health and safety has increased to 26 per cent – from 20 per cent (in EU member countries), when the last similar survey was carried out in 2009. Almost twice as many people in the UK (44 per cent) consider themselves ‘very well informed’ compared with Europe as a whole.
However, while most Europeans agree that good occupational safety and health practices are necessary for economic competitiveness – 86 per cent – the UK had a relatively low proportion of respondents who concurred with this statement, compared with other countries.
The survey also found that around eight in ten (77 per cent) of the general public across Europe think that the number of people who will suffer from stress over the next five years will increase, with nearly half expecting it to ‘increase a lot’.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the extent of the financial cuts that their government has already made, people in Greece are most worried about rising stress – with 83 per cent believing it will ‘increase a lot’ – while Norwegians are least concerned (16 per cent).
Commenting on what the survey says about stress, EU-OSHA director Dr Christa Sedlatschek said: “The financial crisis and the changing world of work is making increased demands on workers. Therefore, it is unsurprising that work-related stress is at the forefront of people’s minds.
“Regardless of age, gender and organisation size, an overwhelming majority of people believes that work-related stress will rise. . . Tackling psychosocial risks is a major focus of EU-OSHA’s work to improve the lives of workers across Europe.”
Writing in his blog, stress expert Professor Cary Cooper said the fact that UK workers had such confidence in health and safety issues being addressed was “a great feat and reflects the hard work that is being done to promote the importance of health and well-being at work throughout the UK”. But he lamented the fact that the UK came in the bottom 10 for thinking that tackling health and safety issues would make organisations more competitive.
“This statistic illustrates the work that still needs to be done to persuade senior management that improving the health and well-being of employees is a strategy for growth, and not just for improving employee health,” said Professor Cooper.
“However, if we can convince employers that enhancing the engagement, well-being and resilience of employees, improving their work-life balance, and reducing the excessive pressures they are facing will have a positive impact on the productivity and growth of the organisation, then we might be going some way towards reducing the effects of job-related stress on both the organisation and individuals.”
The full results of the pan-European poll can be found at: http://osha.europa.eu/en/safety-health-in-figures/index_html#tabs-2