Romania: Survey highlights rural-urban divide in workplace health and safety

The National Institute of Statistics conducted an ad hoc module on health and safety at the workplace as part of the Household Labour Force Survey in the second quarter of 2007. Among the main topics covered were accidents at the workplace and factors that may impair physical and mental health at work. The survey highlights significant differences according to sector, employment status, age, gender and location, revealing a distinct rural–urban divide.

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Introduction

Until 2006, health and safety at work in Romania came under the definition of labour security. In legislative and institutional terms, the transition from labour security to the new concept of health and safety at work was made through Law No. 319/2006 on health and safety at work. This law transposed to Romanian legislation the provisions of the European Union framework Council Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work.

Prior to 2007, the main suppliers of formal statistical data and information on health and safety at work in Romania were the Labour Inspection Office (Inspecţia Muncii, IM), which issued regular reports on individual and collective labour accidents, and the Institute of Public Health Bucharest (Institutul de Sănătate Publică Bucureşti, ISPB), whose main research was in the area of occupational morbidity.

In the second quarter of 2007, the National Institute of Statistics (Institutul Naţional de Statistică, INS) conducted an inquiry into ‘Health and safety at the workplace’, as an ad hoc module to the Household Labour Force Survey (Ancheta forţei de muncă în gospodării, AMIGO). The module was carried out under the coordination of the Director of the Labour Market Statistics Unit, Silvia Pisică.

In order to ensure international comparability, when designing the module, EU standards and regulations were taken into account, notably Commission Regulation (EC) No. 341/2006 (53Kb PDF) adopting the specification of the 2007 ad hoc module on accidents at work and work-related health problems.

The information collected in the INS module was grouped into three main topics:

  • accidents at the workplace;
  • health problems caused or exacerbated at the workplace;
  • factors that may impair physical and mental health at the workplace.

This report will discuss the data and information regarding occupational accidents, as well as the factors that may jeopardise workers’ physical and mental health.

Definition of accidents at work

In the context of the survey, the definition used for accidents at work exceeds the boundaries of the national legislation in this field, including:

  • severe accidents at work, defined according to Law No. 319/2006 as violent bodily injuries or acute occupational poisoning taking place during the work process or fulfilling the job duties, which cause temporary work disability of at least three calendar days or invalidity;
  • moderate accidents, defined according to Law No. 319/2006 as any event leading to superficial injury, requiring only first aid and causing work disability of less than three days;
  • minor accidents, requiring no medical treatment or care and allowing the employee to continue working without being absent at all or with only a short absence of less than three calendar days from the workplace.

 


About the survey

Survey coverage

The population targeted by the survey in relation to the questions on accidents at work comprised persons aged 15 years and over, who – at the time of the study – were or had been working in the past 12 months. With regard to the questions on health problems, the survey included persons aged 15 years and over who were or had ever been working.

Data collection and reference period

Data were gathered by face-to-face interviews at the home of the persons surveyed, using a questionnaire. The questions had various reference periods:

  • reference week, defined as the week before the recording date;
  • last 12 months, defined as any period in the last 12 months before the interview, including the reference week;
  • more than 12 months, defined as any other time, excluding the last 12 months.

Sampling method

The sampling plan was the same as that used in the AMIGO. It consists of a random sample of dwellings, representative at national level and according to region, using a two-stage sampling plan. The representativeness refers both to the household structure and to the population distribution according to urban or rural area, gender and age group.

In the first stage, the sampling plan relied on the Multifunctional Sample of Territorial Zones (Eşantionului Multifuncţional de Zone Teritoriale, EMZOT) 2002 master sample comprising 780 primary sampling units in Romania’s 41 counties and the six administrative sectors of Bucharest Municipality. EMZOT 2002 was developed from the March 2002 Population and Housing Census data, and will be periodically updated.

In the second stage, the sample was based on estimations of the main characteristics surveyed. The result obtained was 28,080 dwellings, with all the component households, with a 3% margin of error.

As noted, for the questions on accidents at work, face-to-face interviews were conducted with all of the persons in the households aged 15 years and over who had worked during the previous 12 months. The response rate was 95.1%. Weighting of the survey results at national level was carried out based on the coefficients allotted to the respondents from the sample households.



Main characteristics of persons injured at work

According to the AMIGO, in the second quarter of 2007, Romania had a total number of 14.2 million persons aged 15 years and over with work experience, 9.9 million of whom – or 69.7% – had worked during the previous 12 months. This segment of people represents the target population for the analysis regarding persons injured at work.

The ad hoc module on health and safety at the workplace reveals that, of those who had worked in the previous 12 months, 235,567 persons (2.4%) stated that they had suffered at least one work accident during the reference period.

Men account for 71.6% of all injured persons, while rural areas account for 64% (Table 1). Of the total number of casualties at work, 76.5% of the people had sustained one accident (180,192/235,567 persons), and 23.5% of them had experienced two or more accidents (55,375/235,567 persons). More than 78.6% of the workers affected by two or more accidents are from rural areas, and 72.3% of them are men.

Table 1: Injured persons, by gender, area of residence and age group
  Total injured persons Of whom:
one accident two or more accidents
No. % No. % No. %
Total 235,567 100.0 180,192 100.0 55,375 100.0
Men 168,676 71.6 128,663 71.4 40,013 72.3
Women 66,891 28.4 51,529 28.6 15,362 27.7
Urban area 84,875 36.0 72,985 40.5 11,890 21.4
Rural area 150,692 64.0 107,207 59.5 43,485 78.6
15–34 years 62,078 26.4 45,633 25.3 16,445 29.7
35–54 years 116,834 49.6 90,433 50.2 26,401 47.7
55 years and over 56,655 24.0 44,126 24.5 12,529 22.6

Note: No. = Number.

Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008

In terms of age group, accidents are most prevalent for the economically active population aged 35–54 years. This age group reports 49.6% of all occupational accidents leading to injury. More specifically, people aged 35–54 years represent 50.2% of the workers reporting one accident and constitute 47.7% of the workers citing multiple accidents.

Sectoral effects

The distribution of injured workers according to sector of economic activity indicates a higher accident rate in the agricultural sector (45.9%). Agriculture accounts for 57.3% of the total number of women injured at work, and accounts for 68.5% of the total number of injured rural workers (Table 2).

Some 35.6% of all injured persons work in the manufacturing and construction sectors; these industries account for 58% of injured workers in urban areas.

Table 2: Sectoral distribution of injured persons
  Total Agriculture Manufacturing and construction Services and other, non-classified, activities
Total No. 235,567 108,121 83,831 43,615
% 100.0 45.9 35.6 18.5
Men No. 168,676 69,818 67,551 31,307
% 100.0 41.4 40.0 18.6
Women No. 66,891 38,303 16,280 12,308
% 100.0 57.3 24.3 18.4
Urban area No. 84,874 4,896 49,273 30,705
% 100.0 5.8 58.0 36.2
Rural area No. 150,693 103,225 34,558 12,910
% 100.0 68.5 22.9 8.6

Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008

Impact of employment status and occupation

A distribution of injured persons according to employment status reveals that employees report the most occupational accidents. On the other hand, employees represent 65.8% of all workers in Romania but only 44.7% of injured workers are employees. Of the total number of injured women, 38.7% are employees. In rural areas, employees represent 24.5% of all those injured (Table 3).

Table 3: Injured persons, by employment status
  Total Women Rural area
No. % No. % No. %
Total 235,567 100.0 66,891 100.0 150,693 100.0
Employees 105,190 44.7 25,861 38.7 36,899 24.5
Self-employed 94,906 40.3 19,499 29.2 80,655 53.5
Unpaid family workers 32,219 13.7 20,900 31.2 31,918 21.2
Unknown employment status . 3,252 . 1.3 . 631 . 0.9 . 1,221 . 0.8

Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008

Meanwhile, self-employed people account for 19.6% of all workers but represent 40.3% of all injured persons. Moreover, 53.5% of all injured rural workers are self-employed. Unpaid family workers represent 13% of all workers and account for 13.7% of all injured persons, although this proportion increases to 21.2% of all injured rural workers. People of an unknown occupational status represent 1.5% of all workers and account for 1.3% of all injured persons.

Among occupational categories, farm workers represent 25.6% of all workers in Romania but account for 40.2% of the total number of injured persons (Table 4). They are followed by skilled workers and craftworkers in manufacturing, construction and services, who represent 16.2% of all workers and 21.4% of injured persons. Unskilled labourers represent 11.2% of all workers and account for 11.1% of all injured persons.

Table 4: Injured persons, by occupational group
  Total Women Rural area
No. % No. % No. %
Total 235,567 100.0 66,891 100.0 150,693 100.0
Farm workers 94,633 40.2 35,287 52.8 89,772 59.5
Qualified workers and craftworkers in manufacturing, construction and services . 50,296 . 21.4 . 5,557 . 8.3 . 17,738 . 11.8
Unqualified workers 26,179 11.1 6,353 9.5 15,071 10.0
Technicians, supervisors and operative workers . 15,383 . 6.5 . 6,974 . 10.4 . 4,158 . 2.8
Other occupations 49,076 20.8 12,720 19.0 23,954 15.9

Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008



Accident rates at the workplace

According to the INS ad hoc module, about 2.22% of employed persons stated that, during the reference period of the last 12 months, they had suffered at least one accident at the workplace. The proportion varies according to gender, area of residence and age group: with men, this rate was 2.88%; with rural workers, it was 3.18%; and with workers aged 55 years and over, it was 3.43% (Figure 1). Accident rates are lower among working women, those employed in urban areas and workers aged 15 to 34 years.

Figure 1: Injured employed persons, by gender, location and age group (% of employed persons)


Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008

The data recorded according to economic sector show that the highest rate of work accidents is in agriculture, at 3.49% (Figure 2). This proportion corroborates with the rate of accidents according to occupational group, which reaches 3.73% for farm workers (see Figure 3 below). The construction sector reports the next highest work accident rate (3.47%), followed by manufacturing (2.1%) and services (1.05%).

Figure 2: Rate of work accidents, by sector (% of employed persons)


Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008

Looking at occupational categories, the highest rate of work accidents – as noted – appears among farm workers (3.73%), compared with an accident rate of just 0.44% among highly qualified individuals performing intellectual work (Figure 3).

From another perspective, employees are less exposed to work accidents than non-employees, comprising self-employed people and unpaid family workers: 1.57% compared with 3.44%.

Figure 3: Rate of work accidents, by occupational group and employment status (% of employed persons)


Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008



Consequences of occupational accidents

Due to work-related accidents, 57.3% of injured persons missed more than one working day and 42.7% resumed work the same day or the next day (Table 5).

Table 5: Injured persons, by length of absence from work
  Total injured persons Of whom:
continued work that day or was absent that day absent from work 1 to 3 days absent from work more than 3 days will never be able to work again
Total No. 235,567 100,548 68,750 64,963 1,306
% 100.0 42.7 29.2 27.6 0.5
Employees No. 105,190 46,345 23,447 35,309 89
% 100.0 44.0 22.3 33.6 0.1
Self-employed workers No. 94,906 37,052 32,672 24,067 1,115
% 100.0 39.0 34.4 25.4 1.2
Unpaid family workers No. 32,219 15,880 11,863 4,476 0.0
% 100.0 49.3 36.8 13.9 0.0
Unknown employment status No. 3,252 1,271 768 1,111 102
% 100.0 39.1 23.6 34.2 3.1

Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008

Self-employed people sustained the more severe consequences, as only 39% of them could resume work the same or the following day. Permanent impairment was reported by 1,306 persons, 1,115 of whom were self-employed.



Risk factors at the workplace

The INS ad hoc survey module gives the following classification of risk factors, namely those:

- affecting mental health, including:

  • harassment or psychological violence
  • physical violence or the threat of physical violence
  • work pressure (short deadlines) or work overload (multiple tasks or simultaneous activities);

- affecting physical health, including:

  • chemicals, dust, smoke, steam or gases
  • noise or vibrations
  • difficult work postures, moving at work or the handling of heavy loads
  • the potential risk of an accident.

Some 47.6% of the workers surveyed stated that they were exposed to at least one of the risk factors that could impair their mental or physical health at the workplace (Table 6).

Table 6: Employed persons, by exposure at work to factors affecting health
  Total exposed persons Exposed to:
factors affecting mental health only factors affecting physical health only physical and mental factors
Total No. 4,496.6 520.8 2,822.0 1,153.8
% exposed in total employment 47.6 5.5 29.9 12.2
Men No. 2,693.7 237.9 1,777.2 678.6
% exposed in male employment 52.3 4.6 34.5 13.2
Women No. 1,802.9 282.9 1,044.8 475.2
% exposed in female employment 42.0 6.6 24.3 11.1
Urban area No. 2,354.2 418.6 1,201.4 734.2
% exposed in urban employment 45.7 8.2 23.3 14.2
Rural area No. 2,142.4 102.2 1,620.6 419.6
% exposed in rural employment 50.0 2.4 37.8 9.8
15–34 years of age No. 1,593.6 200.2 959.5 433.9
% exposed in employment from this age group 46.6 5.8 28.1 12.7
35–54 years of age No. 2,205.3 282.0 1,324.8 598.5
% exposed in employment from this age group 48.1 6.1 28.9 13.1
55 years and over No. 697.7 38.6 537.7 121.4
% exposed in employment from this age group 48.4 2.7 37.3 8.4

Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008

More than half (62.7%) of the workers exposed to risk factors indicated that these could jeopardise their physical health only (2,822/4,496.6 persons). Almost 60% of all exposed workers are men (2,693.7/4,496.6) and more than 49% of all exposed workers are aged 35–54 years (2,205.3/4,496.6).

Rural workers accounted for 47.6% of all workers exposed to risks (2,142.4/4,496.6), and most of them (75.6%) indicated that these were physical risk factors only (1,620.6/2,142.4).

The sectoral distribution of all persons exposed to risk factors in Table 7 places the services sector at the top of the list, accounting for over 40.4% of the total (1,818.2/4,496.6). Agriculture, and manufacturing and construction account for a relatively equal proportion of exposed persons (30.4% and 29.1% respectively).

However, looking at the proportion exposed to risk within each sector, the highest exposure rate is in manufacturing and construction (56.6%).

Table 7: Persons exposed to mental or physical risk factors, by sector
  Exposed persons Of whom (% of total exposed persons), exposed to:
No. % of total employment in the sector factors affecting mental health only factors affecting physical health only physical and mental factors
Total 4,496.6 47.6 11.6 62.7 25.7
Agriculture 1,368.3 48.2 1.2 85.9 12.9
Manufacturing and construction 1,310.1 56.6 8.4 59.1 32.5
Services and other, non-classified, activities 1,818.2 42.4 21.7 48.0 30.3

Source: Based on data issued by INS, 2008

In the agricultural sector, physical exposure risks represent by far the highest share (85.9%), compared with the much lower proportion of mental risk factors (1.2%). Services have the highest rate of exposure to risk factors that may affect only mental health (21.7%). The highest rate of exposure to both types of factors was found in the manufacturing and construction sectors (32.5%), followed closely by services (30.3%).



Commentary

An important step forward in the area of health and safety in Romania was the enactment of Law No. 319/2006, which bridged the approach of the classical labour security legislation (Law No. 90/1996) to the broader concept of health and safety at work. The latter concept aims to focus on communication based on mutual trust, a common awareness of the important role that health and safety at the workplace can play, and developing confidence in the efficiency of risk preventive measures.

The Public Health Institute Bucharest (ISPB), which publishes an annual report on occupational morbidity in Romania, argues that a strategic approach is needed from the perspective of the concept of welfare at the workplace.

In practice, two labour markets are still in effect in Romania. One labour market encompasses economic activities specific to urban areas, where practice and regulations are converging with those of the other EU Member States. The second labour market is specific to rural areas and to a population that largely works in the agricultural sector, in small subsistence family farms of less than two hectares, and mainly consists of self-employed people and unpaid family workers. This rural labour market is more exposed to environmental factors affecting their physical health and to workplace accidents; more than half of these workers continued their activity after the accident.

These realities are reflected in the survey data of the INS ad hoc module, which reveal that safety and health problems are more frequent in rural areas and in the agricultural sector, compared with health and safety at work in urban areas and in sectors such as manufacturing, construction and services.

The survey findings reflect, on the one hand, a better regulatory framework concerning company employees – with increased attention to and responsibility for protecting and maintaining their health and safety – compared with the situation for self-employed people and unpaid family workers. The results also indicate a different level of awareness and institutional commitment in respect of ensuring health and safety at work in rural areas.

Constantin Ciutacu, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy

EF/10/03/EN

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