No excuse for ignoring stress

Billy O’Brien
Effective Software
09 May 2017

We are all different, and all respond differently to stressors; some people thrive on high workloads, tight deadlines and a busy work life, while others will crumble.

However, using that as an excuse to do nothing about it is like saying that some people are stronger than others, or doing nothing about unreasonable manual handling requirements. That kind of thinking cost one car engine part manufacturer £200,000 in fines and costs in November 2016. Mental wellbeing needs to be taken seriously.

According to HSE work-related stress is responsible for 45% of all working days lost to ill health, while it is estimated that the number of deaths from suicide in the construction industry could be 10 times higher than those from fatal accidents at work.

The tried and tested approach to stress recommended by HSE is one that traditional safety managers will recognise: identify the hazards and who will be harmed, assess the risks, and control the causes of harm. While yoga classes, counselling phone lines and onsite massage are nice to have, providing these as a first step is the equivalent of providing dust-masks and gardening gloves without considering the types of respiratory or handling hazards people are facing, or whether there is a better way to control the hazards at source.

While we, of course, are all different in our response to stressors, HSE have identified six headings under which workplace stress hazards can be grouped. To make this personal, we have considered this from the perspective of a health and safety manager’s own stress levels.

Excellent and free resources are available to help you carry out your stress risk assessment, including a 35-item questionnaire that can be distributed to all your staff. If you haven’t considered stress at work yet, this is a good place to start.

Billy O’Brien is director of customer success at Effective Software