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October 2008

TUC biennial survey of safety reps 2008

Stress and musculoskeletal disorders topped the list of workers' safety concerns, according to the TUC's biennial survey of safety reps, carried out by the Labour Research Department.

In the survey three in five (60%) safety reps said stress or overwork was a concern in their workplace. These concerns about stress were most common in the public sector and in large workplaces, with the highest instances in central government (81%), education (74%) and health services (69%).

Brendan Barber TUC general secretary said: "Stress casts a gloomy shadow over far too many UK workplaces. And as the current economic crisis creates more anxiety about job security, stress is likely to increase."

Injuries and illnesses resulting from the poor use of display screen equipment (DSE) were the second-most common concern, highlighted by two in five (41%) safety reps - up from fourth in the previous survey. Repetitive strain injuries (40%) were another commonly reported hazard.

Other concerns on the increase since the last survey in 2006 included slips, trips and falls (up 6%), lone working (up 3%) and violence and abuse at work (up 4%).

Barber added: "Simple office hazards, such as spending too much time fixed on a computer screen or sitting on a badly designed chair, are often overlooked by employers. But the survey shows that they are actually a huge concern to workers and need to be addressed. Thankfully, over 150,000 safety reps across the UK are on hand to help employers prevent these hazards."

The report recommended that unions step up campaigning on stress, including for specific regulations to make sure something is done. There should be more use of enforcement measures by inspectors and the stress management standards should be incorporated in an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP). Similarly, it suggested a union campaign on DSE, with an emphasis on work station assessments, paid time off for free eye tests and taking regular and frequent breaks away from the desk.

The TUC biennial survey of safety reps 2008 can be downloaded from http://www.tuc.org.uk/h_and_s/tuc-15500-f0.cfm

For more information, email Paul Hampton


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