Stress emerges as the biggest health problem in workplace

Stress is the major health and safety concern in today’s workplace, two new
surveys confirmed last month.

Almost two-thirds of 500 union representatives surveyed by the TUC said stress
was the biggest complaint they received – well ahead of back pain. And the HSE
revealed that the number of days taken off due to stress increased to 13.5
million in 2001, double the recorded 1996 figure.

In exclusive research by Personnel Today and IRS Employment Review, 40 per
cent of employers reported an increase in stress claims over the past 12
months, while less than 3 per cent reported a decrease.

The statistics come as the HSE announced that its first management standards
on stress prevention would be piloted this spring, with a second phase planned
for 2005.

The HSE said the standards would be "for advice and guidance
only". They may be followed by an approved code of practice, that courts
will take into account when deciding if an employer has discharged its health
and safety duties towards employees.

The HSE has identified seven stressors on which it is basing its standards.
The first three will be piloted this year, along with "some work on
bullying and harassment".

Employers have a legal duty to prevent risks to employees’ health from
stress under the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. Once in place, the
standards will give health and safety inspectors clear benchmarks against which
to decide if an organisation is meeting its legal duties.

The HSE is also said to be to stepping up training for its enforcers in
stress-related risk this year.

The seven stressors

– Lack of control

– Too many demands (workload, hours, etc)

– Lack of appropriate support (training, recognition of
individual factors, etc)

– Role uncertainty

– Poor relationships (including bullying, harassment, etc)

– Poor change management

– Poor management culture

Source: HSE

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