Work and health in German companies Report

Findings from the WSI works councils survey 2015: Work and health in German companies

Good jobs and health are topics that have been highly relevant for works councils for many years. This is confirmed by the data presented here from the WSI Works Council Survey 2015 of a representative cross-section of industries. The majority of works councils represent workforces that work under high levels of deadline and time pressure and high work intensity. In general, it is shown that work intensification, performance pressure, overtime hours and insufficient staffing levels are part of the everyday work environment in many companies. The results discussed here also show the extent to which psychosocial work stress is influenced by factors of the organizational working environment (the design of which is affected by policies and decisions). Restructuring measures and downsizing, but also increasing workloads due to staff shortages, lead to significant increases in workload pressure on the workforce. The main interventions with which to respond to these stressful working conditions, to mitigate and control them, can be found in the occupational safety and health fields. The norms and instruments of occupational safety and health can also be used to address risk factors related to work organization or working time policies.
However, it is still too common for these workplace risks to be left out of the picture when considering measures stipulated in occupational safety and health legislation - and they have been accordingly underutilized. This, despite the fact that the Safety and Health at Work Act provides for a normed process, namely the instrument of risk assessments (sec. 5, Safety and Health at Work Act), with which to address workplace stress and the complex health risks associated with it.
The findings here highlight the exceptionally weak implementation of risk assessments for psychosocial hazards, which is an especially alarming aspect of the current state of occupational health and safety, and of enormous relevance in terms of action required for the design of the future digital workplace (Work 4.0). Yet one does not need to look far for ways to resolve this deficiency: Companies that have, in a spirit of social partnership, resolved to conclude company agreements with their works councils on risk assessments for psychosocial hazards are shown to be significantly more successful. In companies, and in works councils as well, there is often a lack of competency in the systematic implementation of occupational safety principles and in comprehensive risk prevention. Better training of the relevant actors concerning the health risks of work stress and the opportunities and process of risk assessments would go a long way toward improving implementation of comprehensive risk assessments.


Ahlers, Elke: Work and health in German companies
WSI Report , Düsseldorf , 19 Seiten

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