Stress – the emerging risk

Results from a recent HSE-sponsored survey has shown that a
fifth of the workforce in Britain – over 5 million people – is suffering from
psychiatric problems brought on by work-related stress.

 

Stress-related conditions can lead to a downturn in an
employee’s performance, output and health, and are estimated to cost £7bn and
6.5 million working days in the UK a year.

 

Stress itself is not a new phenomenon – it was defined by
Hans Selye in the 1930s, as "the non-specific response of the body to the
demands placed upon it". However, in light of the recent Department of
Health document Occupational Health and the new HSC proposals to tackle stress
in the workplace, occupational stress should now be identified as a serious
health and safety issue.

 

To help combat this growing problem, Iosh joined forces with
the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) and the Association of Insurance and
Risk Managers (AIRMIC) to hold a seminar, Stress – The Emerging Risk. The aim
of the event, held at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, was to provide
an understanding of stress, its incidence and causes and to discuss different
methods of managing occupational stress.

 

Delegates heard a series of presentations from leading
professionals in the occupational health field. Topics included understanding
and identifying stress, stress from a union and white-collar perspective,
employee-assisted programmes, the human and monetary costs and a
risk-assessment approach to mental wellbeing at work.

 

A recurring theme throughout the day was that stress is not
prejudicial in who it affects, and that recognising stress as an occupational
health issue and approaching it as such is a fundamental part of any OH
strategy.

 

Stress is clearly an issue that will not disappear and Iosh
will be further exploring the issues raised at the seminar at its annual
conference, to be held in Bournemouth in March 2001. It will be interesting to
see how policies and practices concerning this perennial problem have
progressed in the intervening eight months.

 

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health
represents 25,000 safety and health professionals in industry, commerce and the
public sector. Tel: 0116-257 3100; www.iosh.co.uk

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