The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA ) recently launched the main findings of the Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER-2) at the European Parliament in Brussels. The results of the survey — which collected responses from almost 50,000 workplaces in 36 countries, including all 28 Member States — give a detailed insight into how occupational safety and health (OSH) risks are managed in Europe’s workplaces. 

With results easily accessible through an online dashboard, this survey represents an important new resource for policymakers, researchers and practitioners.

The aim of ESENER-2 is to find out how health and safety — and particularly new and emerging risks, such as psychosocial risks — are actually managed in practice in organizations of all sizes, including micro enterprises of 5 to 10 employees. Survey questions were addressed to the person in the organization who knew most about OSH. Respondents identified the major risk factors in their organization and described how they manage them. Importantly, they also reported on the reasons why they manage risks — and the main difficulties that deter them from assessing workplace risks at all.

The most commonly reported risk factor is having to deal with difficult customers, patients, pupils and so on (58% of establishments in the EU-28), which in part reflects the continued growth of the service sector. Factors leading to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as tiring or painful positions and repetitive hand or arm movements, are reported very frequently across all activity sectors.

The results indicate that 76% of establishments in the EU-28 carry out regular risk assessments, and of those 90% consider them a useful way of managing safety and health. There are significant differences at national level in the proportion of enterprises carrying out risk assessments with internal staff compared with external providers. The use of internal staff ranges from 76% in Denmark to 7% in Slovenia. While the size of the establishment has a strong influence, in some countries even most of the smallest establishments generally carry out risk assessments with internal staff.

Among those establishments that do not carry out regular risk assessments, the main reasons given for this are that risks and hazards are already known (83%) and that there are no major problems (80 %). Psychosocial risks are perceived as more challenging than others. Almost one in five of the establishments that report having to deal with difficult customers or experiencing time pressure also indicate that they lack information or adequate tools to deal with the risk effectively.

Another key finding refers to how a high level of employee participation (whether formal or informal) is a strong indicator of good quality of work, including the quality of OSH management in general and psychosocial risk management in particular.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) contributes to making Europe a safer, healthier and more productive place to work. The agency researches, develops, and distributes reliable, balanced, and impartial safety and health information and organizes pan-European awareness raising campaigns. Set up by the European Union in 1994 and based in Bilbao, Spain, the agency brings together representatives from the European Commission, Member State governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, as well as leading experts in each of the EU-28 Member States and beyond.