The Health and Safety Executive has begun a six-month trial of new stress management standards, due to be introduced across the country next year. Nic Paton meets one of the 24 organisations testing the standards
Bristol City Council has had a stress policy in place since January 2001, but it is with the arrival of the Health and Safety Executive’s draft stress management standards that the pace has really picked up.
“When you mention stress, people historically have either thought of it as a mental illness, or a figment of the imagination. There is a real polarisation of views,” says corporate safety manager Paul Fudgell, who is leading the council’s pilot project.
What impressed him and managers at Bristol was the fact that the HSE’s standards were predicated on serious academic research, making them more authoritative.
Following consultation with the HSE, union representatives and other key stakeholders, the council decided to become one of the 24 organisations piloting the standards for the HSE. Once the go-ahead was agreed in principle, it was a question of finding a suitable group of volunteers.
Managers were afraid of finding high stress levels in their department so were reluctant, but after a series of meetings, a team of 50 volunteers from the council’s neighbourhood housing department agreed. A briefing plan was drawn up and the volunteers were given a two-stage paper anonymised questionnaire.
The first stage incorporates a series of fixed questions on the demands on them, their level of control and support, their office relationships, their role within the organisation and how the organisation deals with change.
This is as far as the council has got with the process, but the next stage is for the information to be fed into the HSE’s analysis tool where it will be transformed into coloured charts and graphs. Anything below a red line will be seen as being of issue.
The second questionnaire, which may not be needed if everything is satisfactory, is designed to tackle areas of concern, and includes a range of more detailed questions.
“It relies heavily on consultation with staff. Once the analysis is done, focus groups will be formed to review performance a