Two-thirds of union safety reps have said that stress is among the top five hazards they have to deal with at work. The second most cited hazard is bullying and harassment, followed by overwork, back strains and slips, trips and falls.
The TUC’s 11th biennial survey of safety reps found that more consider stress to be a top-five hazard in the public sector than private. But the number of reps who said it was the main health and safety concern has decreased slightly compared with the last time the survey was carried out: overall 32% said stress was the most important hazard in their workplace in 2014, compared with 36% in 2012 and 27% in 2010.
A rising proportion of safety representatives cite bullying and harassment as a top-five concern – 46% did so compared with 41% two years ago and 37% in 2010.
Worryingly, only 83% said their employer had conducted a formal risk assessments at their workplace. This figure varies between 87% in the private sector, 81% in the public sector and 84% in the not-for-profit sector. Even where risk assessments are carried out, one in five of them are thought by safety reps to be inadequate.
A total of 1,716 reps responded to the questionnaire between March and July 2014.
Referring to the risk assessment findings, the TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s shocking that so many employers are breaking the law and putting their staff at risk of illness and accidents by their sheer negligence. Not only does this put people in danger while doing their jobs, the consequences also carry a high cost for British businesses and public services because it results in lower productivity and more staff spending time off sick.
“Stress remains the top concern for health and safety workplace reps. It’s a particular problem in parts of the public sector like the NHS and local government that have been hit by cuts and top-down reorganisations. Sickness and absence from stress is one of the false economies of public sector austerity.”
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