Work intensity to blame for Europe’s health problems

Exposure to high levels of noise and increased back pain are highlighted in
a working conditions study

More and more workers are being exposed to physical hazards in the
workplace, musculo-skeletal disorders and fatigue because of the intensity of
their work, according to a study of European working conditions.

The European Foundation For the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
polled a total of 21,703 workers. It follows similar studies in 1990 and 1995.

While fewer workers are being exposed to cold or vapours and fumes, exposure
to high-level noise has increased and more workers are carrying heavy loads or
working in painful positions.

Blue-collar workers are exposed to the largest number of risk factors, with
people in sales and service jobs suffering most from painful working positions.
Plant operators, craft workers and technicians were carrying more heavy loads
and working in noisier environments.

More than half (56 per cent) of respondents in the survey claim to be
working at very high speed for at least a quarter of their time, with 24 per
cent saying they do so for all or almost all of the time.

A total of 27 per cent of those polled believe their health and safety is at
risk because of their working conditions.

Workers in the construction sector feel most at risk, followed by
agriculture and transport.

When it comes to backache, 34 per cent say they are affected, with the
biggest increases among professionals (up from 18 per cent to 24 per cent) and

A quarter report neck and shoulder pains, with blue collar and agricultural
workers being most susceptible.

A total of 6 per cent of respondents say they have been absent due to
occupational accidents while 9 per cent report absences because of OH problems.
The report covers the 12 months up to March 2000.

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