Stress Cited As Biggest Workplace Hazard

Stress is the biggest concern to workers in the South West, according to a new survey of safety representatives carried out by the TUC.

The biennial survey asked workplace reps to identify the main hazards to their staff.

More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) in the South West put stress at the top of the list. This was followed by poor display equipment (38%), slips and trips (38%), back strain (32%) and bullying and harassment (31%).

In several safety areas the South West recorded the highest concerns in the country. The dangers of road traffic accidents while at work were listed by 14% of reps - twice the national average. Cramped working conditions were cited by one in ten safety reps regionally, compared with a national average of 7%.

Its findings come as the South West TUC warns that government cuts could put safety on the back foot. The Health and Safety Executive has just seen its government funding cut by 35% while local authorities, who also have inspection duties, face a 28% cut in funding.

Worryingly the survey found that, across the country, 49% of workplaces have never had a health and safety inspection. This is despite evidence that inspection and enforcement activity is the most effective way to ensure that employers comply with health and safety laws.

Nearly one in 10 reps (9%) say that the last inspection at their workplace was more than three years ago, while a further 15% say it was between one and three years ago. Only around a quarter (27%) say their workplace has received a visit within the last 12 months.

There is better news from the South West where reps reported that two-thirds (67%) of employers carried out regular risk assessments – one of the best performances among all regions. It was also the region where employers were most likely to consult with reps on health and safety matters.

Nigel Costley, South West TUC Regional Secretary, said: "Effective health and safety is about a partnership between workers and employers so we're pleased to see that dialogue is taking place in the South West.

"It is, however, a scandal that nearly half of UK workplaces have never had a health and safety visit. Every three weeks someone in the South West dies as a result of an accident at work. Proper oversight is vital if we are to reduce the distressing toll of deaths and injuries.

"These findings are also clear evidence of the pressures workers in the South West face today.

"Unions are ready and willing to work with employers to tackle the problem. We hope they take up that offer. If we don't then, with the financial squeeze we are all facing, the problems of stress in the workplace are only likely to get worse."

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