Employers suffer as stress costs reach record levels

The number of days off sick due to stress has risen to record levels,
according to the latest figures by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC).

Out of 40.2 million working days lost to work-related illness and injury during
2001-2002, 13.4 million were lost to stress, anxiety or depression. This
compares to 12.3 million days lost to musculoskeletal (MSD) disorders and 7.3
million to injury.

In total, nearly 600,000 people took time off for stress, including 265,000
reported new cases.

HSC figures also show that the estimated number of stress-related conditions
has increased from 829 per 100,000 workers in 1990 to 1,700 per 100,000.

HSC chairman Bill Callaghan said the figures show that more needs to be done
to ensure working environments minimise levels of stress.

"Stress and MSDs account for two-thirds of all days taken off work due
to self-reported illness and these are the areas we have already targeted as
priorities," Callaghan said.

"Stress seems to be endemic in modern society – and the rate of
increase in recent years has been considerable. The key to reversing the upward
trend is to avoid stress in the first place."

However, there is better news about deaths at work. The HSC figures show the
number of people killed in work-related accidents in 2001/2002 has fallen by 43
to 249 in the space of a year.

There was also a slight reduction in major injuries at work to 27,477 – 47
fewer than for the previous 12 months.

The three riskiest industries are mining (803 cases per 100,000), the water
industry (652 cases per 100,000) and the railways (631 cases per 100,000).

By Ben Willmott

HSE stress-busting initiatives include:

– The launch of a new training and
resource website www.hse.gov.uk

– Encouraging sharing of case studies and best practice working www.ohstrategy.net

– Generating information to build the business case for action on stress

– Working in partnership with others to develop management
standards for measuring the effectiveness of dealing with occupational stress

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