Stress, Overwork, and Insecurity are Driving the Invisible Workplace Accident Rate

María José Carmona

María José Carmona Journalist, Equal Times

Courtesy of Isaac Santana

Nurses providing hospital care, delivery people delivering food to homes, domestic workers cleaning hotel rooms, office workers accumulating overtime hours, restaurant servers taking on two or three jobs to make minimum wage: no one would consider these to be dangerous occupations. And yet today, more than ever, they have become high-risk jobs.

In 2019, you no longer have to hang from scaffolding to risk your life on the job. Precariousness, stress, and overwork can also make you sick, and even kill you, at a much higher rate than accidents.

Of all of the work-related deaths recorded each day (7,500 according to the International Labour Organization, or ILO), less than 14 percent occur at the workplace. The vast majority (approximately 6,500) were the result of long-term physical (circulatory, respiratory, professional cancer) or mental illness.

We work in safer environments than we did 30 years ago but the physical and emotional health of workers remains fragile. Traditional risks persist – the European Union, for example, has seen a recent uptick in fatal accidents in the construction sector – while at the same time, emerging risks, psychosocial risks, and risks associated with the digital economy are increasing. These include stress, fatigue, and harassment related to the organization of work, working hours, demands, and uncertainty.

“Psychosocial risks are the great pandemic of this century and they are related to the precarious conditions of the labour market,” warns Ana García de la Torre, secretary of occupational health of Spain’s General Union of Workers (UGT).

The union’s latest prevention campaign focuses precisely on “invisible” threats such as overloading and hyperconnectivity. “They are not new, we’ve been suffering from them for a while, but they have definitely gotten worse.”