Stress is main workplace health concern, say seven in 10 union reps

Almost seven in 10 (69%) health and safety union representatives say stress is one of the main issues they have to deal with at work – particularly those in the public sector.

According to the union representative body the TUC, stress is especially common in central government – where 90% of union reps said it was a top-five concern – followed by health services (85%) and education (84%).

This was followed by bullying and harassment, which was seen as a top concern by 45% of the safety reps polled by the TUC and has become more common in central and local government (cited by 71% and 80% respectively).

Overwork was a concern for 36% of the 1,073 union reps who took part in the TUC’s biennial health and safety rep survey, though this proportion has fallen slightly since the survey was last conducted in 2016 (40%).

Again, overwork was a more prominent issue in the public sector, as reported by 43% of respondents, than in the private sector (27%).

Concern over slips, trips and falls increased from 28% in 2016’s survey to 31%. It was the third most common concern among private sector businesses, with 43% stating it was a problem, compared with 23% in the public sector.

Twenty-three per cent were worried about violence and threats in their organisation. It was more of an issue in the public sector (as stated by 29%) than the private sector (17%).

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s easy to make light of ‘health and safety culture’. But it’s no joke lying awake at night from stress, falling ill through working long hours, or being subjected to bullying in the office.

“Employers and managers need to do more to identify and reduce risks and to provide support to employees struggling to cope.”

Risk assessments were also seen as an issue. The survey found that this was a more pressing concern in education, where only 25% of employers had conducted a risk assessment that the health and safety representative thought was adequate.

Forty-one per cent of reps said they were not involved at all in their organisation’s risk assessment. Only 21% who were involved said they were satisfied with their level of input.

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