Health and Safety of European Workers: Risks and Conditions in the Workplace

In an era of dynamic shifts in the workforce and technological advancements, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff should be a top priority.

In this blog, we look at two sections of the Occupational safety and health in Europe: state and trends 2023 report by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work: risks at work and the conditions staff are facing.

Section 1: Risk factors at work

Traditional manual labour roles are progressively giving way to administrative, professional and managerial positions. This shift has significant implications for workplace safety.

Let’s explore some of the report’s findings:

Psychosocial and emotional challenges: The report highlights a shift towards psychosocial and emotional challenges, with a growing percentage of employees facing issues like difficult clients, long working hours and poor communication within their organisations.

Client-oriented sectors: These psychosocial burdens are notably prevalent in sectors characterised by extensive customer interaction, including tourism, entertainment, education, public transport, social work, health and care.

Ergonomic risks persist: While psychosocial risks are on the rise, traditional ergonomic risks have not disappeared. The report reveals that a significant portion of the workforce – between 40% and 75% – still reports classical ergonomic risks like repetitive movements, heavy lifting and uncomfortable positions.

Physical risks: Physical risks such as exposure to noise, vibrations, extreme temperatures and chemical agents continue to affect between 15% and 30% of employees, depending on their occupation and sector.

Section 2: Conditions of employment and workforce development

This section of the report shifts the focus to employment conditions and workforce trends, including the rise of non-standard work arrangements.

Here are the key statistics:

Non-standard work: Non-standard work arrangements, such as part-time, temporary and seasonal positions, have gained traction. In 2019, 11.4% of workers had temporary contracts, while 17.3% worked part-time.

Work location changes: The report highlights significant shifts in work location, particularly the surge in working from home. In 2019, 5% of employees worked remotely. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, this figure skyrocketed to 13.4% in the EU.

Occupational shifts: The evolving demographic composition of the workforce is another crucial aspect. Between 2005 and 2019, the employment rate for women increased from 61.2% to 67.9%. Additionally, the share of older workers (aged 55 to 64) grew from 11.1% to 18.4%.

Migrant workforce: The report highlights the growth of the migrant workforce in the EU, with intra-EU migrants, cross-border workers and posted workers making up approximately 12% of the EU workforce.

Skills requirement: 2005–2020 saw an increase in the demand for higher skills across most occupations. Roles requiring tertiary education rose from 24.9% to 36.4%, reflecting the changing nature of work.

How do we stay safe?

The report offers invaluable insights into the evolving nature of workplace risks and conditions. Its findings underscore the urgency of proactive measures to address both traditional and emerging risks.

As industries adapt to changing demands and technologies, safeguarding employees’ physical and mental well-being is an ongoing challenge. The report’s findings emphasise the need for collaborative efforts between employers, policymakers and safety professionals to assess needs and create adaptive strategies that ensure a safer and more secure working environment.

Ultimately, the report reinforces the idea that the pursuit of labour safety is an ever-evolving journey – one that must adapt to the changing nature of work itself. By staying vigilant and responsive, we can build a safer and more secure working environment for all, regardless of the challenges that lie ahead.

How GRC eLearning can help

GRC eLearning offers a range of staff awareness solutions to help your employees navigate their workplace requirements.

These solutions include our Health and Safety Staff Awareness E-Learning Course and our Health and Safety for Managers Staff Awareness E-learning Course.

Our courses are developed by in-house subject-matter experts and instructional designers to provide educational and engaging content that’s ideal for organisations of all sizes.

We incorporate simulations and game scenarios, and provide a taste of the real-world application of these lessons. Also, our courses are regularly updated to account for the latest frameworks and guidelines.

Check out our range of health and safety courses today to discover how we can help your staff work safely.