Taking the pulse of Europe: occupational health and safety concerns revealed in major poll

Dr Christa Sedlatschek

At the Agency, we’re acutely aware of the way that the economic crisis in Europe, and the changing world of work, is putting extra strain on the occupational health and safety of European workers. That’s why it’s particularly important that we’ve taken the pulse of the European workforce now, with our second major European Opinion Poll on Occupational Safety and Health. Carried out for us by Ipsos MORI, the poll involved asking some 35,000 members of the public a series of questions, designed to test their opinions on a range of OSH-related subjects.

The results, however, do not all make for comfortable reading. The poll, which covered 36 European countries, shows that job-related stress in particular is a growing worry for the large majority of the European workforce, with eight out of ten (seemingly regardless of age, gender or organisation) thinking that the number of people suffering from it will go up over the next five years, and over half thinking it will ‘increase a lot’. This is very similar to what we found through our ESENER survey of new and emerging risks in the workplace, which also shows work-related stress becoming one of the biggest health and safety challenges that we’re faced with in Europe, both in terms of the human suffering that it causes, and the economic costs it incurs. That’s why the Agency is so focused on tackling psychosocial risks, such as stress, in the workplace.

At the same time, though, in these times of cutbacks it was encouraging to learn that the large majority of Europeans (86%) agree with us, and see that there is a link between good occupational health and safety and economic competitiveness. Encouraging too, in this European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, that 87% of people understand the importance of good occupational health and safety if we are to work longer before we retire. At the Agency we’re working hard to promote the European Year, to reinforce the idea that we need good occupational safety and health at all stages of our working lives.

Christa Sedlatschek, Director