, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 165–195 | Cite as

What drives the perception of health and safety risks in the workplace? Evidence from European labour markets

  • Thomas Leoni
Original Paper


Worker perceptions of job-related health risk are a little-studied dimension of heterogeneity in the labour market. According to information from the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), one out of three European workers considers that her health and safety is at risk because of work. Not surprisingly, risk perceptions are influenced by objective risk factors such as hazardous working conditions, onerous job characteristics and by the probability to be affected by occupational accidents and illnesses. This paper explores also the role played by personal characteristics and household structure for the explanation of risk perceptions. After controlling for job characteristics, workplace hazards, job satisfaction and health outcomes, I find that risk perceptions are strongly correlated with gender, age, and household structure. Lone parents as well as older and more experienced workers have a higher propensity than other categories to consider their health at risk because of work. The same seems to hold true for better educated workers, especially for those who have completed tertiary education. Further results suggest that the relationship between household structure and risk perception is stable across gender.


Risk perceptions Health and safety hazards Worker heterogeneity 

JEL classification

J24 J81 



I would like to thank René Böheim, Martin Falk and Andrea Weber as well as two anonymous referees for very useful comments to earlier drafts of this article. Responsibility for the final product lies entirely with me. I am also grateful to participants of the NoeG 2009 conference in Linz for their comments and to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions for providing the EWCS data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Austrian Institute of Economic ResearchWIFOViennaAustria

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