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NHS puts safety reps under greatest strain

Two thirds of safety reps reporting concerns over stress and overwork are based in the health service, according to a TUC survey.

Stress was cited as the biggest concern in 10 of the 14 sectors covered by the poll, and this was most common in the public sector and large workplaces.

Injuries and illnesses from use of display screens had jumped from fourth to second place on the list of concerns since the previous survey two years earlier, closely followed by repetitive strain injuries. There was also a four per cent increase in worries about violence and threats at work.

CSP national health and safety officer Donna Payne said the Society’s network of 550 reps agreed with the TUC results. The national poll also reflects the findings of last year’s CSP survey on stress. This found 76 per cent of respondents reporting stress, citing overwork, lack of breaks, poor equipment and environment, lack of learning opportunities and constant restructuring as key factors.

Ms Payne said the increasing use of electronic patient records meant CSP safety reps were regularly dealing with complaints about computers and work stations. The fact that display screens ranked high in the TUC survey as a key hazard was ‘no surprise’ to the CSP’s reps.

The TUC has also launched a Safety Representatives Charter to highlight to employers the need for better communication with reps, showing how they can prevent injuries and even deaths among workers. Recent government statistics showed safety reps prevented up to 13,000 workplace accidents and up to 8,000 work-related injuries a year.

• The CSP, as part of the NHS Staff Council’s Partnership for Occupational Health and Safety in Healthcare, has launched its first set of occupational health and safety standards, which includes the role of the safety rep. The document covers the law, good practice and the rights and role of the rep, including time off work for workplace inspections and representing members.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Full details of TUC survey at www.tuc.org.uk

The occupational health and safety standards are at www.nhsemployers.org/practice/index.cfm

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