Stress tops workers' safety concerns and spending cuts will make it worse

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date: 26 October 2010

embargo: 00.01hrs Thursday 28 October 2010

Stress, bulling and harassment, back strains, slips, trips and falls, and overwork top the list of workers' safety concerns, according to the TUC's biennial survey of safety reps published today (Thursday).

The 2010 survey finds that stress is by far the most common health and safety problem at work. Nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of reps say that stress is in the top five of problems faced by the workforces they represent.

More than a quarter of reps (27 per cent) pick out stress as the hazard at work that most concerns them. The TUC survey reveals that stress is most often found in the public than in the private sector - 68 per cent of public sector union reps say it is a problem compared to 54 per cent in the private sector.

Stress is more prevalent in larger workplaces and is most common in London - 70 per cent of reps in the capital cite it as an issue - than in any other part of the UK.

The survey's findings on stress are revealed as TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber prepares to address the launch of the British Academy's Stress at Work report in London tomorrow (Friday). Stress at Work explores the impact of the recession on stress, and the potential of the impending cuts and restructuring of the public sector for increasing workplace anxieties.

Brendan Barber said: 'Stress can be caused by heavy workloads, cuts in staffing, long hours and bullying.

'The economic crisis and redundancies have created more anxiety about job security, and as the spending cuts begin to bite and even more jobs start to go, stress at work is bound to increase.

'Unions and employers must work together to combat stress at work as it can have a devastating impact on workers and a damaging cost on businesses.'

Other findings from the survey include:

Bullying and harassment is this year's second most common health and safety concern. More than a third of reps (37 per cent) list it as a top five concern in the workplace - almost double the proportion (20 per cent) who cited bullying as an issue in 2008. It is more prevalent in the public sector than the private sector, and the larger the workplace, the more likely it is to be a concern. Londoners are the most likely to report bullying as one of their top five safety issues.

Back strains constitute the third most frequently mentioned hazard, with a third (33 per cent) of reps saying this was a top five concern for their workplaces, slightly up on the 31 per cent figure in 2008.

Slips, trips and falls is again the fourth most common hazard identified, with 32 per cent of reps regarding it as one of the top five causes for concern (33 per cent said it was in 2008).

Overwork is listed as a separate issue to stress for the first time in the survey, and it is the fifth most likely hazard to be identified as a major concern with more than one in four (29 per cent) of safety reps listing it as one their top five issues. Overwork is slightly more common in workplaces with more than 1,000 workers and is most prevalent in London and the South East.

The TUC is also concerned by the increase in the proportion of reps saying that asbestos is a worry in their workplace, with almost one in 10 (nine per cent) saying this compared with less than one in 20 (four per cent) in 2008.

Another change in the findings of this year's survey is that display screen equipment (DSE) and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) present fewer concerns now than in 2008 - both were reported by 28 per cent of reps now compared to 41 and 40 per cent previously.

There are also quite dramatic falls in the proportion of safety reps saying that psychosocial hazards like working alone (down from 30 to 21 per cent) and violence and threats (down from 26 to 18 per cent) were main hazards.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Top 10 hazards of concern to workers, as cited by union safety reps (per cent)

Hazard

2010

2008

2006

Stress

62

60

61

Bullying/harassment

37

20

15

Back strains

33

31

28

Slips, trips, falls

32

33

27

Overwork

29

n/a

n/a

DSE

28

41

36

RSI

28

40

38

Long hours of work

21

23

24

Working alone

21

30

27

High temperatures

19

20

26

Handling heavy loads

18

13

13

- This is the eight biennial TUC safety representatives' survey, 1,819 union safety representatives responded to the questionnaire in the period May-June 2010.

- The safety reps survey is available from http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/safetyrepssurvey2010.pdf

- Brendan Barber will address the British Academy launch of the report on Stress at Work at 9.30am tomorrow (Friday) at the British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH. For more information about the British Academy please contact Kate Turnbull, Press and PR Manager, on 0207 969 5263 or email k.turnbull@britac.ac.uk

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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