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24 June 2015

Psychosocial and musculoskeletal risk factors the most widespread in Europe’s workplaces

Psychosocial and musculoskeletal risk factors are the most widespread in Europe’s workplaces, according to the Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER-2). The results of this survey — which collected responses from almost 50,000 workplaces — were unveiled on 23 June at the European Parliament.

The most commonly reported risk factor is having to deal with difficult customers, patients, pupils and so on (58% of establishments in the EU28), which in part reflects the continued growth of the service sector. Factors leading to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as tiring or painful positions and repetitive hand or arm movements, are reported very frequently across all activity sectors.

The results indicate that 76% of establishments in the EU28 carry out regular risk assessments, and of those 90% consider them a useful way of managing safety and health. There are significant differences at national level in the proportion of enterprises carrying out risk assessments with internal staff compared with external providers. The use of internal staff ranges from 76% in Denmark to 7% in Slovenia.

Meeting legal obligations was the most frequently cited reason for managing occupational safety and health (85% of establishments in the EU28), with meeting the expectations of employees and their representatives (79%) and avoiding fines from the labour inspectorate (78%) also mentioned by a high proportion of respondents.

ESENER 2 also gives an insight into whether businesses perceive safety and health management as a burden, which is highly relevant for ongoing programmes such as REFIT, the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme. When asked whether the complexity of legal OSH obligations is regarded as an obstacle to health and safety management, the results varied from 67% in Italy to 14% in Lithuania.

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