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October 5, 2012

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Gap between policy and practice in managing psychosocial risks

Nearly three-quarters of European companies lack procedures for managing workplace stress and other psychosocial risks, despite their increasing threat to workers, warns the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

EU-OSHA has published two new reports examining the issue, at a time when increasing numbers of European workers are reporting problems with stress. Findings from its earlier European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) show that only 3 per cent of organisations are tackling psychosocial risks in a systematic way, and 12 per cent had not implemented any of the key measures for managing psychosocial risks covered by the survey.

The findings also show that 79 per cent of managers in the EU are concerned about stress at work, with 40 per cent worried about workplace harassment and violence, yet 74 per cent of European businesses still do not have procedures in place to deal with these issues.

According to EU-OSHA, between 50 and 60 per cent of all lost working days are thought to be related to psychosocial risks, while mental-health disorders are estimated to cost European businesses €240 billion euros a year. The Agency’s new reports consider the factors that make businesses more likely to succeed in addressing stress, harassment and violence in the workplace, including concerns being raised directly by employees, and an awareness of the business case for tackling the problems.

The reports also identify the barriers that many businesses encounter in trying to deal with psychosocial risks, including a lack of technical support and guidance, and scarce resources.

EU-OSHA director Christa Sedlatschek said: “While psychosocial risks are beginning to be recognised as a key challenge by policy-makers, there seems to be a gap between policy and practice in the way that these risks are managed at the business level. Forty per cent of companies say they need more information and support in tackling psychosocial risks; we need to do more to raise awareness of what these risks are, and do more to help businesses deal with them – for example, through better risk assessments, changes in work organisation, and training.”

The two EU-OSHA reports, ‘Management of psychosocial risks at work’ and ‘Drivers and barriers for psychosocial risk management’ are available at: and

They follow EU-OSHA’s ESENER survey from two years ago, which focused heavily on psychosocial risks.

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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