Almost half of all workers subject to work-related health risks

A significant number of people in Romania have been exposed to work-related health risks according to a new survey. More than 4.4 million employees, close to half of all those in employment, reported that they had been exposed at work to at least one factor that may affect their mental or physical health. Exposure to factors affecting only physical health were reported by 69.4% of this group, 5.8% reported exposure to factors affecting only mental health, and 24.8% reported both.

About the survey

The National Institute of Statistics (INS) has published the results of an inquiry, ‘Accidents at work and work-related health problems’. The survey is a complementary module to the INS Household Labour Force Survey (AMIGO) and the data were collected during the second quarter of 2013.

The information collected during the research covers accidents at the workplace, occupational health issues, and risk factors that may impair workers’ physical and mental health.

For the purposes of the inquiry, the risk factors were categorised as those:

  • affecting mental health, such as harassment or emotional violence, physical violence or threats of physical violence, pressure to deliver work at short notice, being overloaded with multiple or simultaneous tasks;
  • affecting physical health, such as chemical substances, dusts, smoke, steam, gas, noise, vibrations, uncomfortable workstations, work requiring excessive motion, handling of weights, work requiring acute visual concentration, ‘accident-prone’ activities.

The interviewees were questioned face-to-face. All were aged 15 and over, were or had been in employment, and were residents of Romania.

Main findings

Of the 9.3 million people in employment in the second quarter 2013, 4.4 million stated that they were exposed, at their current workplace, to at least one risk factor for their physical or mental health. That equated to 47.4% of all people in employment.

Of this group, 5.8% claimed exposure to factors likely to affect their mental health, 69.4% complained of exposure to only physical impairment factors, while 24.8% felt they were exposed to both categories of risk.

Exposure by gender and age

Of the 4,425,000 people in employment who stated that they were exposed to at least one risk factor for their health at work, 2,648,000 were men and 1,777,000 women. The exposure rate in this group was higher among men (51.7%) (Table 1).

Table 1: Degree of exposure to risk factors by gender and age group (%)
 

Share of exposed people in all types of employment

Distribution of exposed persons by categories of risk

Only to mental health risk factors

Only to physical health risk factors

Exposure to both types of risk factors

Total

47.4

5.8

69.4

24.8

Men

51.7

4.5

71.2

24.3

Women

42.2

7.6

66.6

25.8

15–24 years

45.1

3.9

70.3

25.8

25–34 years

46.2

6.7

64.8

28.6

35–54 years

48.4

6.2

67.5

26.3

55 years and over

47.2

3.6

82.1

14.3

Source: Accidents at work and work-related health problems, second quarter 2013, INS, Bucharest, 2013.

Exposure to factors likely to jeopardise mental health is higher among women, at 7.6%, compared to 4.5% among men. For physical risk factors, exposure is higher among men (71.2%) than among women (66.6%).

Exposure to mental health risk factors is lower in the oldest and youngest age groups – 3.9% for those aged 15–24 years, and 3.6% for the over-55s. People 55 or older mostly complained of working conditions that mainly affected their physical condition (82.1%).

Risk exposure differentials

Significant differences were found between state-owned and private companies in the degree of exposure to risk factors. In the public sector, 39.6% were exposed to risk factors compared to 48.7% in the private sector.

Factors affecting mental health were reported by only 4% of workers in the private sector, but by 17.1% of workers in the public sector. A large number of workers in the private sector (72.4%) claimed they were exposed to working conditions likely to affect their physical health, compared to 50.4% of workers in the public sector.

The category of workers facing the highest exposure to health risks are construction workers (65.3%), and those in the transport sector (61%), with workers in education at the other extreme at 26.1% (Table 2).

Table 2: Degree of exposure to risk factors by economic sector (%)
 

Share of exposed people in all types of employment

Distribution of exposed persons by categories of risks

Only to mental health risk factors

Only to physical health risk factors

Exposure to both types of risk factors

Total

47.4

5.8

69.4

24.8

Agriculture and forestry

42.9

0.0

91.9

8.1

Industry, total

56.5

2.5

58.9

38.6

Construction

65.3

2.0

71.0

27.0

Commerce

44.8

6.7

69.3

24.0

Transport

61.0

5.8

63.9

30.3

Hotels and restaurants

45.6

7.7

61.5

30.8

Information and communications

51.4

16.0

47.0

36.9

Education

26.1

19.4

50.9

29.7

Health

31.8

18.4

48.7

32.9

Public administration

43.2

25.4

34.5

40.1

Source: Idem Table 1.

Mental health risk factors are perceived by 25.4% of public administration workers as likely to affect their health compared to only 2% of construction workers.

The highest exposure to actual physical injury at the work place was found in agriculture (91.9%), followed by construction (71 %) and commerce (69.3%). The share of workers exposed to both types of risk factor is much higher in public administration (40.1%), industry (38.6%), and in the information and communication technology sectors (36.9%).

Commentary

The number of people who reported that they were exposed to at least one risk factor that may harm their physical or mental integrity at the workplace was more than 4.4 million. However, research has also revealed that only 140,120 people actually had at least one mental or physical impairment caused or worsened by their working conditions – around 1.5% of all those in employment.

More than 63% of the impairments sustained by workers were of a physical nature – with injuries to bones, muscles and joints, for example.

Reference

INS (2103), ‘Accidents at work and work-related health problems’, second quarter 2013, INS, Bucharest.

Constantin Ciutacu, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Коментар