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For better and for worse, 2014 has been the year for the psycho-social work environment. After the number of reported occupational diseases due to organizational and social causes increased by 50% over the last four years, stress or other mental strain are now the most common cause of problems. The next most common problem is postures that cause strain and heavy manual handling. We have also seen a trial that was unique in Sweden, where two managers were found guilty in a district court of a serious health and safety offence after an employee committed suicide as a result of harassment at work. To deal with shortcomings in the organisational and social work environment, the Work Environment Authority sent out new regulations for consideration during the autumn. The bill covers working hours, unhealthy workloads and conflicts and offensive treatment. The binding regulations also stress the importance of having clear and realistic goals for this aspect of work environment management – no goals, no action. A good work environment requires continuous and proactive efforts to prevent risks of ill-health and accidents and to focus on health-promoting factors. It is the employer’s and the manager’s responsibility to balance all the requirements of the business with the abilities and expectations of the personnel. To achieve effective work environment management, personnel must also be involved, participate in surveys and take part in the implementation of action plans. Risks in the organisational and social work environment cannot always be assessed with clear measurements and limits, as can many risks in the physical working environment. We need to work with other methods and models, good ways of communicating with each other and have the courage to leave aside the standard check-list and ask new questions. We are each other’s work environment. Soon it will not only be a moral and human responsibility.
Cecilia Österman

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