HSE standards will have huge impact on stress management

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) stress management standards are set to have a profound impact on how employers tackle workplace stress, OH professionals and academics have predicted.

The standards are due to be launched formally in November, following an exhaustive consultation and development process going back to 2002. The first pilots ran in April last year.

They are set to provide a yardstick against which organisations can measure their progress in tackling work-related stress in six key areas – demands, control, change, relationships, role and support – and allow them to act appropriately.

Employers will have to achieve specified organisation-wide satisfaction percentages, ranging from 65 to 85 per cent.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School, believed the standards would finally give employers something tangible to grasp hold of when assessing the causes of stress in their organisation.

“They are very, very robust. Whatever people think about them, the criteria are accurate,” he said.

As a result, employers were already much more prepared to consider what sort of activities are likely to increase risk.

A key element of the standards is that they are intended to provide clear guidance, within a non-legislative framework, to employers and employees on how to resolve issues.

One of the reasons employers and OH professionals have seen such a phenomenal rise in stress-related cases over the past two to three years is because the HSE has started to get more closely involved in the issue, according to Claire Raistrick, managing director of Matrick Ergonomics and OH nurse for more than 20 years.

But while diagnosis may improve as a result, there is still some way to go when it comes to effective, lasting intervention, argued Cooper.

“We need more research to show what sort of intervention works. The whole strategy for dealing with workplace stress needs to be addressed,” he said.

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