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EVERY YEAR THE EUROPEAN AGENCY FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK (EU-OSHA) picks a topic for a campaign on a safety issue. The present subject of stress at work was thought to be serious enough to merit a two-year drive to publicise the issue and encourage remedies. This period will come to an end in December following a second ‘European Week’ and a ‘Healthy Workplaces Summit’ where experts from all over Europe convened to discuss the results and possible future strategies. Numerous events in more than thirty countries were held between 19th. and 25th. October including a conference on ‘Managing work related stress at schools’ in Portugal, a screening in Slovakia of the award-winning film ‘Harvest’ about seasonal workers and a good practice awards ceremony in Italy where the winning companies shared their best practice. The European Week also homed in on two particular themes: sexual harassment and third-party violence, the most prevalent psychosocial risk for European workers, both of which can lead to stress.
The experts’ summit, held at EU-OSHA headquarters in Bilbao, held sessions during which Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment spoke and managers from companies such as Deutsche Post and SEAT, together with trade union researchers from the ETUI and ETUCE education federation presented good practice for managing stress and psychosocial risks at work. According to the TUC, in the U.K. 11.3 million work days are lost due to stress which accounts for 39% of all work-related illness. Europe-wide, the EU-OSHA survey reveals that having to deal with difficult customers, patients or pupils was identified as the biggest risk factor of all in European workplaces (57.4%). Director Dr Christa Sedlatschek commented ‘Working face-to-face with clients, customers or others outside the organisation increases the risk of violent incidents’.
Report reveals serious safety flaws on Irish railways
A SAFETY AUDIT COMMISSIONED BY THE Railway Safety Commission (RSC) in Ireland has criticised the culture of Irish Rail. Poor morale after recent wage cuts and redundancies have resulted both in overwork and a reluctance to report problems to management for fear of being reprimanded. ‘As it stands, the message that the frontline receives is that management is not welcoming of their views’ states the draft report. Incidents of near-misses such as speeding and speed restriction boards being out of position were not being reported. Having interviewed 17 senior staff and board members the independent audit concluded ‘a lack of trust between management and frontline staff ... was widely characterised in audit interviews’. This meant that ‘feedback on the implementation of standards is limited’ and ‘a full picture of risk is not visible at senior management and board level’.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) agreed ‘you don't have to be an expert on rail safety to understand that low morale among frontline staff … can result in negative consequences’ said General Secretary Dermot O’Leary. He highlighted the underfunding of the rail system, where thousands of jobs had been lost. and urged the government to assure the public ‘that the safety of the railway is not being compromised as a result of funding cuts’. A spokesman for the company responded by stressing that Irish Rail have one of the best safety records in Europe and were working with the RSC ‘towards the common goal of the safest possible railway’.
|Video supports need for chemical substitution|
THE EUROPEAN CHEMICALS AGENCY (ECHA) has reiterated the beneficial effects for companies, customers, workers and consumers of substituting dangerous chemicals with more benign alternatives. Not only will your firm be ‘doing the right thing’ they say, but the process of switching can stimulate innovation, make your product stand out and reduce regulatory costs. Although chemicals users can voluntarily decide to substitute, for Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) there are deadlines to meet legal requirements for authorisation from ECHA and there are also general responsibilities under the Biocidal Products Regulation as well as EU workers’ protection legislation.
A still from ‘Painting a Safer Europe’
and a link to the video: