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December 6, 2010

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A quarter of European employees suffer ill health caused by work

Older people in manual roles, women undertaking work that is likely to impact on their health in the long term, and employees without fixed-term contracts are among the most vulnerable workers in Europe, new research has found.
The initial results of the fifth European Working Conditions Survey were revealed last month by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, based on data collected from almost 44,000 workers active in 34 European countries in the first six months of this year.
Among the most interesting findings was the fact that a quarter of European workers feel that work is having an adverse effect on their health. However, 90 per cent said they are well-informed about the risks to their health and safety.
In terms of the types of risks faced, 63.5 per cent of workers said they are forced to perform repetitive hand or arm movements (an increase of 7.4 per cent in the last 10 years); 15.3 per cent are exposed to hazardous substances; and 46 per cent are forced to adopt painful, or tiring positions for at least a quarter of their working time. And although exposure to vibration has decreased overall, among skilled manual workers it has actually shot up by 10 per cent over the last 10 years.
Asked if they would be able to continue doing their job after the age of 60, less than half of manual workers said yes, compared with 60 per cent of all workers.
The effects of the economic crisis were also revealed by the survey, with 3 per cent more respondents than in the 2005 survey saying they feared for their jobs. This figure rose to 32 per cent among those without a fixed-term contract. Less than a third of workers said they would be able to find another job with a similar salary, should they lose their current job, and almost 40 per cent indicated that they had gone into work when they were sick in the 12 months preceding the survey.
The director of the ETUI’s health and safety department, Laurent Vogel, said the survey shows that the long-term impact of work on health may be more worrying than its immediate effects. He explained: “Women who predominantly work in jobs and sectors where the immediate consequences of work are less noticeable lose any advantage looked at over a full career. Women are also more tightly controlled at work: fewer women than men can take a break when they want, or have prospects for career advancement.”
Mr Vogel also pointed out that with debates raging in several European countries – including the UK – on retirement age and employment of older workers, extending working life very much depends on the type of work involved. He said: “For the least-favoured groups, the build-up of poor working conditions over life often makes it a physical impossibility to keep working. The way things are, a building worker, cleaner, or call-centre worker will have difficulty keeping their job and their health after the age of 50 or 55.
“Adjustment schemes for older workers will not be enough given the build-up of ill health throughout working life.”
He concluded: “Without a big improvement in working conditions and more control of them by workers, delaying retirement is little better than a cynical ploy for cutting the pensions of those already on the lowers incomes. The current reforms could well simply widen income gaps at the expense of older workers who, faced with the threat of poverty, may have no other choice but to slog on in a health-destroying job.”
A PDF of the preliminary results of the survey can be downloaded here. The full report of the fifth European Working Conditions Survey will be published in the new year.

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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13 years ago

I concur with Tudor’s sentiments, however, part of the fault research may be because to get real hard information is virtually impossible with firms “hiding” behind the DPA

I am a self funded PhD student looking at links between MsD of back and upper body in the waste industry. 4 this research there is a real need for waste companies & local authorities to provide information 2 allow for real comparisons and improvements to be made.

This is a real barrier
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13 years ago

Although intersting this is yet another piece of’ research which states the obvious. The cash spent of this type of research, and others like it, would be much better spent on practical things that would actually help the most vulnerable in the work place. I feel its a real tragedy that money is basically wasted on this type of activity, when we all know what the outcomes will be. A very personal opinon.