What do Europeans think about their working conditions?

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has just released
the results of a Europe-wide opinion poll on safety and health at work.
According to the findings, there is widespread concern among European citizens
that the current economic crisis could adversely affect health and safety at
work, putting at risk the improvements that they report having seen over the
last five years. Many Europeans also feel well informed about occupational
safety and health and consider it an important factor when choosing a new job.

The economic downturn puts pressure on European workers

According to the opinion poll, 6 out of 10 Europeans expect the global economic
downturn to deteriorate working conditions, especially regarding health and
safety. And a significant majority of respondents (75%) across Member States
believe that ill health is caused at least to some extent by the job that
people have.

Jukka Takala, Director of EU-OSHA, recognises the challenges that businesses
face today and reminds them of investing in their workers health: "The
financial crisis may lead organisations to ignore or minimise the importance of
workplace safety and health. And even there is a risk that companies will
consider cutting back on their investment in occupational safety and health
(OSH). The challenge to us, as the Agency, is to convince them that there is no
point in making short-term gains at the cost of long-term problems. All of our
work shows that the more healthy workplaces are, the more productive they also
tend to be".

Salary and job security most important

As unemployment increases, people may be more concerned with their immediate
job security than with the safety and health of their working conditions. When
asked about the deciding factors for choosing a new job, European Union
citizens believe that job security and salary level are more important than
safe and healthy working conditions, which ranked third in the poll before
working hours.

Better information - improved health and safety conditions

The encouraging news is that people within many of the Member States
(particularly EU-15) regard themselves as well informed about risks in the
workplace and 57% of respondents believe that health and safety at work has
improved over the last five years.

Gender differences

The opinion poll also reflects gender variations in attitudes towards OSH. Male
participants regarded salary (61%) and job security (55%) as the most important
factor when taking a new job, in comparison to lower percentages among female
respondents (53% and 51%, respectively). On the contrary, women seem to give
more importance to working hours (26%) than men (19%).

In addition, more male respondents believe that health and safety conditions
have improved over recent years (62%) than their female counterparts (only 52%)
and men feel better informed on safety and health matters (71%) than women

Jukka Takala said: "In fact, safety and health risks of women at work tend to
be underestimated and neglected. The incompatibility of working time with
family life, the 'double shift' which still affects women disproportionately
and the fact that there is more emphasis on accidents at work than on
occupational health (which leads to attention being turned towards
male-dominated sectors and occupations) are some of the new challenges which
must be faced. It is essential to take a 'gender sensitive' approach to safety
and health at work, an issue which EU-OSHA will continue in its contribution to
ensure greater understanding within businesses across the European Union".

EU-OSHA has played an essential role in promoting safety and health at work
within Europe for more than a decade and will continue to contribute in its
pro-active approach to the improvement of working conditions. The Agency's
Healthy Workplaces campaign, including the European Week for Safety and Health
at Work from 19 to 23 October, is the world's biggest information campaign on
OSH, involving thousands of organisations and workers across Europe.

More information - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work