Occupational stress

24 April 2008

Fiec and the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) adopted a joint recommendation on the prevention of occupational stress in the construction sector during the last plenary meeting of their European Social Dialogue committee held on 10 January.

The declaration is based on a joint FIEC-EFBWW research project and seminar on work-related stress held in 2004.

The aim of this initiative was to study the extent to which the construction sector is affected by stress. This study, which was sub-contracted to a research institute, CLR, was financed by the European Commission.

The results of the study contained a general analysis on the impact of stress on individuals, alongside five national reports.

They were presented and discussed during a FIEC-EFBWW seminar in Antwerp, Belgium on 8 October 2004, where Peter Andrews (Construction Confederation, UK), FIEC Vice President and President of the FIEC SOC Commission presented the contractors' views.

The statistics provided in the study showed that a majority of workers in the construction sector were not suffering from stress. Another result of this study was that more than a third of workers did not consider construction sites as dangerous places to work. This, however, is slightly worrying, because the underestimation of potential risks might increase the likelihood of accidents occurring.

Vocational stress is a complex phenomenon, which can potentially affect any workplace and any worker. It is an increasingly significant problem, especially as regards insurance claims, so FIEC and EFBWW have decided to follow up their research by developing a joint recommendation for their members on the prevention of occupational stress in the construction sector. In this recommendation, the construction European Social Partners agreed on the following: Considering,

• the joint declarations of the European Construction Industry Social Partners issued on the occasion of the European Health and Safety Summit 2004 in Bilbao (Spain) on 22 November 2004;

• the framework agreement on work-related stress adopted by the cross-sectoral European social partners on 8 October 2004, in which stress is defined as “a state, which is accompanied by physical, psychological or social complaints or dysfunctions and which results from individuals feeling unable to bridge a gap with the requirements or expectations placed on them.” Considering the specifics of the construction sector, which differs from other sectors due to

• a high risk of occupational accidents;

• a complex production process, often consisting of a chain of subcontractors and secondary contractors working more or less simultaneously;

• the influence on the production process of external factors such as weather conditions;

• a relatively high mobility of workers, in some cases, and consequently the existence of long journeys to and from work;

• the strong pressure on the production process to complete the work within adequately short time limits.

FIEC and EFBWW, the European Construction Industry's Social Partners, on the basis of article 7 & 9 of the framework agreement on stress of the cross-sectoral European social partners:

• agree that, even if not all work places and workers are necessarily concerned and even if not all manifestations of stress at work can be considered as work-related stress, nevertheless work-related stress can affect some of them. Consequently, tackling stress at work can lead to greater efficiency and improved occupational health and safety,

• declare that a positive policy should be developed in the construction sector to prevent, reduce and combat stress-related problems if and when they occur, once the reasons of the work-related stress and the way they affect different people involved, have been investigated and determined.

• recommend to their member federations at national level to jointly formulate a positive policy to prevent, reduce and combat work-related stress, once again when the result of the previous reasons may be known.

FIEC and EFBWW also agreed in this text to examine, within their European social dialogue, the progress achieved in the framework of this joint statement, two years after its signature.

This recommendation is in line with the framework-agreement on work-related stress signed by UNICE/UAPME, ETUC and CEEP at the cross-sectoral level in October 2004, which underlines the responsibilities of both employers and workers to prevent, eliminate and reduce problems of work-related stress, and which should be implemented by all their members.

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