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Occupational hazards in Germany24th of June 2013
ECJ’s correspondent in Germany Thomas Schulte-Marxloh reports on occupational health statistics.
In 2009 occupational disability caused an estimated loss of 1.3 million man-years which means a gross loss of 75 billion euros, taking into account that all employees create value with their work.
Good news first: occupational safety is increasing in Germany. The numbers of fatal and non-fatal occupational accidents (in 1993: 1,867; in 2009: 622) and commuting accidents have been going down over the years. However after a continuous decrease in recent years, the number of occupational diseases is climbing again.
Conditions in the contract cleaning business can be tough and dangerous. Cleaners must operate in difficult working conditions: they have to carry heavy equipment and work with vibrating cleaning machines; they work in areas contaminated with oil, filth, grease, etc; they suffer from glaring or dim light, loud noise, low or high temperatures, draughts, a moist or wet environment; they have to deal with hazardous or microbiologically contaminated materials, vapour, gases or fumes. Workers in the contract cleaning industry are mainly affected by falling accidents and skin irritations but they also suffer from painful backs or necks very often.
Apart from physical stress, the accelerated, global world means psychological stress too. Workers have to deal with strict operational rules, monotonous work, increasing job requirements, time pressure, multi-tasking demands and interruptions in the work flow. They are asked to do work they are not qualified for, confronted with new duties, asked to try new procedures, always working at the limit and aware that minor mistakes may mean severe losses.
According to research by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) a ‘good job’ includes the following: a guaranteed salary and a secure workplace as well as pleasing work; executives should have respectful manners and provide for health protection of their employees by adequately designed workplaces; workmates should support each other. Work should have a ‘meaning’, something to be proud of and not boring.
But there is a difference between a varied job and permanent changes that can have a rather stressful effect on both executives and employees. They are challenged by new process technologies, new computer software, new machinery or equipment, new or significantly changed products, materials or services, restructuring measures, job releases, more freelancers, part-timers and trainees, new managers or executives. Also a gap between agreed and actual work time is stressful for the worker.
The BAuA recently published the ‘Stressreport Deutschland 2012’ which points at a correlation between technical and organisational changes, higher job requirements and an increase in stress. The report also refers to studies which prove that actually no one can ‘get used’ to but rather accumulates stress.
In the end, stress can be the trigger for accidents or wrong decisions affecting business, human resources, health, family and social life. Luckily, the BAuA research also advises how to reduce stress: by good organisation, consistency and - actually – friendliness.