New research published recently by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has revealed that many European workers consider the health and safety practices of organisations to be an important factor in choosing a new job.
However, according to the findings, there is also 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.
According to the opinion poll, which surveyed 1,000 people from each EU member state, 60% of Europeans expect the global economic downturn to make working conditions worse, especially in the area of health and safety. The majority of respondents (75%) said that they believe ill health is caused at least to some extent by a person’s work.
On a positive note, 57% of the respondents said they believe that health and safety at work has improved over the last five years.
Jukka Takala, director of EU-OSHA, commented: “The financial crisis may lead organisations to ignore or minimise the importance of workplace safety and health. And there is even 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”.
The survey also highlighted 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 53% and 51% of women respectively.
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 health and safety matters (71%) than women (61%).
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”.