European Risk Observatory
More and more people face psychosocial risks at work
Working environments are significantly changing with the introduction
of new technologies, materials and work processes. Changes in work
design, organisation and management can produce new risk areas that can
result in increased stress levels and may finally lead to a serious
deterioration of mental and physical health. A new report by the
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work shows that the main
psychosocial risks are related to new forms of employment contracts,
job insecurity, work intensification, high emotional demands, violence
at work and a poor work-life balance.
Jukka Takala, Director of The European Agency for Safety and Health at
Work (EU-OSHA) states: “Working life in Europe is changing at an
ever-increasing speed. Job insecurity, multiple jobs or high work
intensity can all lead to work-related stress and put workers’
health in danger. Constant monitoring and improving of psychosocial
work environments are necessary to create quality jobs and retain
workers in good condition.�?
Work-related stress is one of the biggest occupational safety and
health (OSH) challenges faced in Europe and the number of people
suffering from stress-related conditions caused or made worse by work
is likely to increase. Stress is the second most reported work-related
health problem, affecting 22% of EU workers (2005). Studies suggest
that between 50% and 60% of all lost working days are related to it. In
2002, the annual economic cost of work-related stress in the EU15 was
estimated at EUR 20.000 million.
Emerging psychosocial risks have been explored in an expert forecast
and are presented in a new report, the third one of a series on new and
emerging risks, issued by the European Risk Observatory (ERO), integral
part of EU-OSHA.
Precarious work puts workers’ health at risk
Precarious work is generally defined as low income and low quality
employment with little opportunity for training and career progression.
People on precarious contracts tend to carry out the most hazardous
jobs, work in poorer conditions and receive less OSH safety training.
Working under unstable working conditions can give rise to job
insecurity which significantly increases work-related stress.
Work intensification leads to health problems
Strict deadlines and high speed makes a growing number of EU workers
experience high workload and work pressure. Reduction in workplaces,
increasing amount of information to handle at work as a result of new
communication technologies and more demands shared between fewer
workers can also lead to greater work-related stress.
Violence or bullying jeopardise workers
The problem of violence and bullying in workplaces is of growing
concern. Although it affects all types of occupations and activity
sectors, prevalence is high in the healthcare and service sectors.
Deterioration of self-esteem, anxiety, depression and even suicide can
be the consequence.
Poor work–life balance affects families
High workloads and inflexible working hours make it more difficult to
achieve a decent work-life balance, particularly for women, who often
still face a “double shift�?: first at work, then at home.
This can lead to stress and other negative effects on people’s
health, especially when there is no possibility for the employees to
adjust the working conditions to their personal needs. Over 40% of
employees from the EU27 who worked long hours reported being
dissatisfied with the balance between work and family life.
A workshop to discuss and consolidate the survey findings and to
explore practical ways to tackle psychosocial risks will take place in
Brussels in April 2008. It gathers OSH specialists, EU policymakers,
and employers’ and workers’ representatives.
Furthermore, EU-OSHA is planning a large scale forecasting study to
monitor workplace and societal changes that lead to emerging OSH risks.
In 2009, EU-OSHA also plans to launch a survey of enterprises in all 27
EU Member States to learn how organisations in both the public and
private sectors deal with psychosocial risks, and how enterprises can
be assisted to manage these complex workplace hazards more effectively.