Working conditions in Hungary

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In 2001, Hungary carried out its first survey on the state of occupational health and safety in the workplace. The survey aimed to assess working conditions in order to promote the Hungarian National Programme of Occupational Safety and Health for improving quality of work and life; and to establish a database on working conditions that would be comparable with EU data. The results reveal that, with regard to physical factors, such as noise, vibration, temperature, uncomfortable working posture, heavy mental and/or physical workload, the proportion of employees affected is similar to that in the EU. However, in relation to exposure to chemicals, Hungary reports more than twice the exposure rate of the EU average.

 

 


Introduction

This report reviews the main results of the survey, The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary , which was carried out in 2001. The survey had two key objectives: to assess working conditions in Hungary in order to promote the Hungarian National Programme of Occupational Safety and Health for improving quality of work and life; and to establish a database on working conditions that would be comparable with EU data.

The survey was conducted by the Public Foundation for Research on Occupational Safety (MKK), and the data were gathered through the Omnibusz surveys of the TÁRKI Social Research Institute, the Hungarian Labour Inspectorate (OMMF) and the National Centre for Public Health , according to the government bill 154/1999 on national statistical data gathering. In terms of methodology, the survey used as a model the Third European survey on working conditions 2000 questionnaire, designed by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2001). The survey was based on a representative sample of 3,751 respondents and the data were collected using structured face-to-face interviews (see the appendix for further details on the methodology and questionnaire).

Respondents were chosen from all strata of the Hungarian working population: employees working full time or part time, self-employed entrepreneurs, and students and mothers on maternity leave if they had any kind of paid partial employment.

Among the topics covered in the survey were:

  • physical risks;
  • exposure to chemicals;
  • psychological and physical workload caused by a less than optimal working environment;
  • other working environment variables;
  • informing employees about risks in the workplace.

 

 


Physical risks

Noise in the working environment

The survey results show that the proportion of employees affected by above-limit noise levels in the period surveyed was somewhat lower in Hungary than the average for the 15 EU Member States at the time (EU15), and the range of sectors affected was also different. In fact, in 2001, the permitted limit was lower in Hungary than in the EU15.

Table 1: Noise exposure, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Noise exposure, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by exposure to noise (%) Sectors most affected by noise exposure Jobs most affected by noise exposure
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
21.6 28 Coal mining, metal products manufacturing, textiles industry, wood processing Metal products excluding machinery, wood and cork products excluding furniture made of straw and wicker-work Machine operators in light industry and wood processing, forestry workers, food processing workers Machine operators and assemblers

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

Vibration at work

According to the Hungarian survey findings, the employees most affected by exposure to vibration were men aged over 25 years employed in large companies.

Table 2: Vibration at work, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Vibration at work, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by vibration (%) Sectors most affected by exposure to vibration Jobs most affected by exposure to vibration
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
26.7 24 Coal mining, peat cutting, forestry and wood processing, leather industry Construction Forestry and agricultural workers, machine operators in light industry and wood processing Miners, construction workers, workers in transport and production of building material

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

High temperatures

According to the survey results, those most affected by the risk of elevated temperatures in the workplace were men aged under 25 years employed in large companies.

Table 3: High temperatures, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
High temperatures, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by high temperatures (%) Sectors most affected by exposure to high temperatures Jobs most affected by exposure to high temperatures
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
27.1 20 Coal mining, peat cutting, forestry, metal products manufacturing, rubber and synthetics manufacturing, agriculture Basic metal products manufacturing Workers in agriculture and forestry, food processing, transportation, postal services and telecommunications Miners, construction workers, drivers

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

Low temperatures

Workers experiencing low temperatures can be divided into two main categories: those working in an open-air environment and consequently subject to climatic changes, and those who work in refrigerating plants of large food processing factories.

Table 4: Low temperatures, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Low temperatures, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by exposure to low temperatures (%) Sectors most affected by exposure to low temperatures Jobs most affected by exposure to low temperatures
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
19.7 23 Coal mining, peat cutting, recycling of waste materials, forestry, transport via waterways, agriculture Food processing, manufacturing of drinks, construction Workers in agriculture, forestry, food processing, transportation and operators of mobile machinery Miners, construction workers, factory workers, masons

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

Ergonomic factors

Lifting and moving heavy objects

The data indicate considerable exposure to lifting and moving heavy objects in the sectors listed in Table 5. For instance, in the fishing industry, 75% of working time involves lifting or moving heavy objects. The sectors outlined are, to a great extent, traditional occupations requiring substantial manual labour. In 2001, the employees mainly affected were men aged under 25 years working in small enterprises.

Table 5: Heavy lifting, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Heavy lifting, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by exposure to heavy lifting (%) Sectors most affected by exposure to heavy lifting Jobs most affected by exposure to heavy lifting
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
36.4 34 Woodworking, coal mining, forestry, transport via waterways Construction Workers in fishing, agriculture, forestry, food processing Miners, construction workers, factory workers, masons

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

Repetitive movements

The proportion of employees in jobs requiring repetitive movements was practically the same in Hungary as the EU15 average. However, the relatively high number of workers affected in the forestry and agriculture sectors is a surprising result. Employees having to endure high levels of repetitive movements work mainly in medium-sized and large companies; men aged under 25 years of age are particularly vulnerable to this health risk in the workplace.

Table 6: Repetitive movements, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Repetitive movements, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by exposure to repetitive movements (%) Sectors most affected by exposure to repetitive movements Jobs most affected by exposure to repetitive movements
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
56.1 57 Woodworking, coal mining, forestry, transport via waterways Food and beverage industries Workers in wood processing, agriculture, forestry, food processing Maintenance workers

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

Painful and tiring positions

In 2001, the proportion of employees in Hungary who reported working in strained bodily postures was lower than the EU15 average. This may be explained by the almost demise of the mining industry in Hungary. Nevertheless, the proportion of activities carried out in a strained posture during the entire working day is still high in the sectors listed in Table 7.

Table 7: Painful and tiring positions, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Painful and tiring positions, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by exposure to painful and tiring positions (%) Sectors most affected by exposure to painful and tiring positions Jobs most affected by exposure to painful and tiring positions
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
31.5 45 Coal mining, forestry, woodworking, construction, textiles industry, agriculture Food and beverage industries Construction workers, wood industry, agriculture, forestry, fishing Miners, construction workers, transport workers

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

Unfortunately, occupational diseases caused by ergonomic factors remain under-reported. This observation is also supported by the nationwide inspection campaign carried out by the National Labour Inspectorate; see the Hungarian National Programme of Occupational Safety and Health, in which the Labour Inspectorate concluded that at least 25% of work accidents are not reported.



Exposure to chemicals

Data referring to employees’ exposure to chemicals are surprisingly widespread, particularly in comparison with the EU15 average. One reason for this significant deviation may be the fact that, in 1981, Hungary was the first country in the world to make biological and chemical monitoring of the working environment a legal obligation. As a result, detailed data on the exposure to different chemicals (lead, organic solvents, organic esters of phosphoric acid, etc) are available. According to the survey on working conditions in Hungary, exposure to chemicals mainly affects men, as the jobs with the highest health risk are mostly occupied by men.

Table 8: Exposure to chemicals, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Exposure to chemicals, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by exposure to chemicals (%) Sectors most affected by exposure to chemicals Jobs most affected by exposure to chemicals
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
29.8 14 Leather industry, rubber and plastic manufacturing, fuel delivery, chemicals industry Chemicals industry Workers in health sector, mining, machine operators in manufacturing industries Miners, construction workers, factory workers, operators of office equipment

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.



Rapid pace of work and monotonous work

In Hungary, workers most affected by a rapid pace of work are women aged under 25 years of age working in industrial settings.

Table 9: Rapid work pace, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Rapid work pace, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by rapid work pace (%) Sectors most affected by rapid work pace Jobs most affected by rapid work pace
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
49.2 54 Raw material recycling from waste, textiles and leather industries, manufacturing of non-metal materials Hotel and restaurant Workers in food industry, machine operators in manufacturing industries, metal industry, mining Managers, customer service

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

Table 10: Increased work pace, driven by management expectations
Increased work pace, driven by management expectations
Proportion of employees affected by management pressure on work pace (%) Sectors most affected by management pressure on work pace Jobs most affected by management pressure on work pace
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
61.8 67 Manufacturing of non-metal materials, fuel delivery, insurance, hotel and restaurant Hotel and restaurant Workers in trade industry, hotel and restaurant Customer service

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002

Table 11: Increased work pace, determined by machinery
Increased work pace, determined by machinery
Proportion of employees affected by increased work pace, determined by machinery (%) Industrial sectors most affected by increased work pace, determined by machinery Jobs most affected by increased work pace, determined by machinery
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
20.5 22 Textiles industry, telecommunications, printing, food and beverage industries, metal industry Textile industry Machine operators in manufacturing, food industry, mining industry, mobile machine operators Machine operators, maintenance workers

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

In terms of the proportion of workers and sectors affected, the results correspond with those of the EU15; men aged under 25 years working in large companies are mainly affected.

Table 12: Monotonous work, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Monotonous work, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees affected by monotonous work (%) Sectors most affected by monotonous work Jobs most affected by monotonous work
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
49.7 45 Telecommunications, printing, raw material recycling from waste, textiles and leather industries, food and beverage industries Textiles and leather industries, food and beverage industries Machine operators in manufacturing, food industry, mining industry, mobile machine operators Machine operators, maintenance workers

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

In terms of the proportion of workers and sectors affected, the results correspond with those of the EU15. Men aged under 25 years and working in large companies are mainly affected by the abovementioned risk factors.



Other working environment variables

The data highlight the importance of the use of personal protective equipment by employees in jobs carrying health and safety risks. According to the survey results, more than 30% of Hungarian employees are equipped with satisfactory personal protective equipment, which is a higher proportion than the EU15 average. It is important to note that not all employees need such equipment, so this represents a good coverage. However, one particular concern in Hungary is that many workers avoid using the protective equipment supplied, which often leads to an increased risk of serious occupational injury.

Table 13: Use of personal protective equipment, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Use of personal protective equipment, by proportion of employees affected, sector and occupation
Proportion of employees using personal protective equipment (%) Sectors most affected by use of personal protective equipment Jobs most affected by use of personal protective equipment
Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15 Hungary EU15
35 25 Coal mining, rubber and plastic manufacturing, metal industry Construction Machine operators in agriculture, food industry, mining industry, metal industry Construction workers

Sources: European figures based on the Third European survey on working conditions, 2001; The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.



Informing employees about risks in the workplace

With regard to awareness of workplace health and safety issues, the majority of employees are familiar with the risk factors of their workplace. It is the legal duty of employers to inform employees not only about the risk factors but also about the means of risk prevention. Unfortunately, however, risk awareness and adherence to preventive measures do not always correspond.

Table 14: Risk awareness at work (%)
Risk awareness at work (%)
Worker awareness of risks in the workplace (%)
Very good Quite good Quite poor Very poor
49.7 46.7 3 0.7

Source: The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.

Training provided by the employer

On the basis of harmonised laws, providing education and information for employees has become the employer’s obligation. According to the survey findings, various training courses were provided for 50% of the employees, but it is unlikely that all of the courses pertained to work safety issues.

Table 15: Participation in training (%)
Participation in training (%)
Proportion of employees participating in training courses (%)
Total % of employees receiving training 1-7 days of training 8-30 days of training More than 30 days of training
49.7 46 3 0.7

Source: The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, 2002.



Commentary

This report outlines the main results from the 2001 survey on the state of occupational health and safety in Hungary, commissioned by the Hungarian Labour Inspectorate. This was the first assessment carried out in Hungary in this field prior to the country’s accession to the EU in 2004.

The main aims of the research were to:

  • monitor the state of occupational health and safety;
  • provide data on occupational health and safety for the development of regulations and guidelines;
  • promote the Hungarian National Programme of Occupational Safety and Health and set priorities;
  • improve employees’ work-life balance;
  • compare Hungarian and EU data on occupational health and safety.

The main conclusions drawn from the results of the survey are that, with regard to physical factors, such as noise, vibration, temperature, uncomfortable working posture, heavy mental and/or physical workload, the proportion of employees affected is similar to EU15 figures. However, in relation to chemical exposure, Hungary reports more than twice the exposure rate of the EU15 average.

Almost at the same time as the survey presented in this report was carried out, in 2001, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions launched a survey covering the 10 countries that would become new EU Member States in 2004, including Hungary, and two candidate countries at the time, Bulgaria and Romania. The survey, Working conditions in the acceding and candidate countries, encompassed a wider subject range, also including working hours, bullying, violence and discrimination, income and payment systems, for example. It provides an opportunity for comparing data among the then acceding and candidate countries.

Author: Katalin Balogh, MKK



References

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA), The state of occupational safety and health in the European Union (including the Risk sector project) , Bilbao, August 1998.

Hungarian Labour Inspectorate, Hungarian National Programme of Occupational Safety and Health 2001, 2002.

Paoli, P. and Merllié, D., European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Third European survey on working conditions 2000, Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications for the European Communities, 2001. See also /ef/search/node/ewco OR surveys?oldIndex.

Public Foundation for Research on Occupational Safety, The state of occupational health and safety in Hungary 2001 , Budapest, 2002.

TÁRKI Social Research Institute, Working conditions in Hungary 2001 , Omnibusz surveys, 2001.



Appendix: About the survey

Compiling the survey results of TÁRKI Omnibusz studies

Some 3,571 respondents were included in the Omnibusz survey. The people were randomly selected from the data of the Central Processing Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and were proportionally representative of settlements of different sizes and geographical locations in Hungary.

The researchers had to attempt to contact 1,500 people on the list once a month and were obliged to repeat the attempt on three occasions in case they failed the first time. Out of a possible maximum of 1,500 people each month, the final sample was as follows:

May 2001: 704 persons

June 2001: 661 persons

July 2001: 652 persons

August 2001: 605 persons

September 2001: 643 persons

October 2001: 486 persons

Total: 3,751 persons

List of survey questions

Noise at work : Do you have to raise your voice if you want to speak to your workmate?

Vibration : Do you experience vibration at work caused by hand tools or machinery?

High temperature at work : Is the temperature at your work so high that you perspire even when you do not carry out any physical labour?

Low temperature at work : During work, are you exposed to low temperatures either in closed or open space?

Lifting and moving heavy objects: Do you have to lift and/or move heavy objects?

Repeated movements at work: Do you have to carry out repeated hand or arm movements?

Work with forced bodily posture: Do you carry out your work in a forced bodily posture?

Handling chemicals: Do you come in contact with harmful substances or products in your work?

Rapid pace of work: How frequently do you have to carry out work to a rapid pace?

Pace of work demanded by social expectations : Does the pace of your work depend on people like customers, clients, passengers, patients?

Pace of work driven by machinery: Is the pace of your work determined by products or machinery?

Monotonous work: Does your work involve monotonous tasks?

Use of personal protective equipment: In carrying out your work, how often do you have to wear personal protective equipment?

Informing employees about risks at work : Do you think you are well, quite well, rather badly or very badly informed about the risks that originate from substances, equipment, tools or products with which you are in contact during your work?

Education, training provided by employer: In the past 12 months, have you participated in any kind of training involving knowledge on labour protection and that was provided or financed by your employer?

Muscle pain, pain in the dorsal or lumbar region: Do you think your work has an effect on your health? Do you experience pain in your back, neck, waist or in your muscles?

Health deterioration caused by stress: Are you under stress? Do you feel exhausted or irritable?

EF/06/47/EN

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