A secondary analysis was performed on a large scale cross-sectional survey (n = 12,500) by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The analysis investigates (1) 'strain', i.e. whether or not employees in 12 European Union (EU) member states considered their health or safety to be at risk because of their work in relation to psychological demands, job control and social support, (2) the unique contribution of(a combination of) these job characteristics in explaining differences in health and safety risk (HSR), (3) the explanatory value of these job characteristics in comparison to physical job demands, and (4) the relative strength of these determinants in each of the 12 EU member states. Results show that (1) psychological demands, job control and social support are all related to a perceived health and safety risk in the work situation; (2) each of these characteristics has an unique contribution; (3) physical demands, when added to the model, are by far the most influential determinant; and (4) in a cross-national comparison, physical demands are found to be the most influential determinant of HSR in all EU member states. The importance of this study is its large scale and European character. An important limitation, however, relates to the operationalization of the dependent variable. It is concluded that high psychological demands per se constitute a risk of illness and injury from work. The larger number of European employees who consider their health or safety to be at risk because of their work, underlines the necessity of monitoring risk factors and risk groups and of prevention, and also of adequate legislation with respect to working conditions. An important implication of this study is that one should be careful not to underestimate the impact of traditional blue collar stressors in working life in Europe.