23% of European workers believe that their safety or their health is at risk because of their work – a figure which shows that working conditions in Europe are not improving. And even though manufacturing employment across Europe is shrinking and losing ground to service jobs, exposure to traditional physical hazards - noise, dangerous goods, heavy lifting, etc. – has not gone away.
Along with this, a growing number of workers are complaining of the effect their work is having on their psychological health. Ill-being at work can end in tragedy, as evidenced by the wave of suicides that has affected some big French companies in recent years.
New forms of work organization and the increasing time-pressure of work may be partly behind the persistence of traditional risks and the emergence of new ones in firms. Trade unions believe that work intensification is the main cause of the work-related stress and musculoskeletal disorders now seen to be affecting more than one in five workers.
While these may be problems in all countries, industries and occupations, it is clear that the lowest-skilled and manual workers are bearing the brunt. The healthy life expectancy of a 35-year-old manual worker in France, for example, is ten years less than that of a manager. As the talk in many EU member countries turns towards staying working longer, a debate on working conditions and their impact on workers’ health is a must. We are stepping into that debate through the following topic studies.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) held the Healthy Workplaces 2015 Summit in Bilbao on 3-4 November. ETUI researchers Viktor Kempa and Aida Ponce Del Castillo took part in the debates focused on strategies for managing psychosocial risks in the workplace.
On 13 November the Parliament of the canton of Geneva passed a law creating a Joint Labour Inspectorate (Inspection paritaire de l’emploi – IPE). This law allows trade union representatives to visit businesses in order to check their compliance with labour legislation.
Rana Plaza and its 1 100 plus victims, mainly women, are still in everyone’s minds. The horror generated by the tragedy has forced the garment industry giants to make commitments to safety in the textile factories of Bangladesh. The results of research into their impact were revealed for the first time on 15 October during an ETUI Monthly Forum.
In a new ETUI publication, an international occupational health expert invites the European Union to spearhead a global campaign to eliminate occupational cancer.
A new ETUI project focusing on workers’ compensation in a context of prevention strategies was launched in Prague on 4 September 2015. The project is coordinated by the ETUI researcher Viktor Kempa and Wim Eshuis from the Dutch research trade union institute De Burcht.
Christophe Hauert, Danielle Bütschi, Jean-Christophe Graz, Marc Audétat et Alain Kaufmann
Yves Roquelaure (Ergonomics and Epidemiology Laboratory for Occupational Health)
Kjell Hansson Mild, PhD and Monica Sandström, PhD (Umeå University)
Aïda Ponce Del Castillo (ETUI)