Greece: No prevention, no records

Working conditions in Greece are getting worse, according to European research conducted on the issue every five years. Among the 15 EU member states, Greece’s standing on workplace issues is particularly poor. For example: – It tops the list in stress, with 53 percent of its workers saying they suffer from it. – It is last in professional training and, as a result, 45 percent of workers say they feel more insecure in their careers. – It has the second-worst record, after Spain, for the percentage of workers – 47 percent – suffering from repetitive wrist and arm movements. – It ranks fourth in pressing work conditions, with 67 percent of workers subjected to them. There’s no way to record or prevent occupational illnesses. In a study published in the British periodical Occupational Medicine in January 2005, in-house doctors Haralambos Alexiotis, Georgios Rachiotis, Spyros Drivas and associate professor and pneumonia specialist Panagiotis Bechrakis described the bleak situation in Greece. Although 67 occupational illnesses – mainly dermatological and respiratory ailments – were officially recognized in 2001, only one case of pleural mesothelioma, associated with exposure to asbestos, has been recorded. The country was ranked seventh worldwide for asbestos and asbestos cement production in 1995. The Social Security Foundation (IKA) is the only insurance body that can recognize and record occupational illnesses. This means that a large section of the work force, such as farmers, have no hope of their illnesses being recorded or even recognized, even though sectors such as fishing and agriculture are considered to be at high risk by the EU. There are provisions in the law for the creation of state services for the diagnosis of occupational illnesses by the National Health System (ESY) or social security organizations. However, no state-run centers for the diagnosis of occupational illnesses have been created. The procedure for claiming insurance cover for occupational hazards does not work. In-house doctors employed by corporations are very few. Greece will have to answer for a lot in 2006 when the EU assesses its system for health and safety at work.

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