Are you like many people fed up with the constant media reporting on the doom and gloom of the current recession? Recent newspaper articles have reported that many organisations are reporting growing numbers of staff going off sick – and some medical practitioners lay the blame on a condition called “recession stress”.

It is thought that some workers/organisations are more prone to pessimism and if it gets into a workforce it has a negative impact on health, therefore increasing absenteeism rates and decreasing morale and efficiency.

Occupational stress (or stress at work) is a non-physical injury that an employee can be at risk from. Section 8 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 outlines specific duties on employers to manage and conduct their activities in such a way as to prevent any ‘improper conduct or behaviour’ which might affect the health and safety of their employees.

Irish data on accidents and injuries show that workers from public administration and health and social work sectors are, when compared to other sectors, particularly at risk of injuries caused by “shock, fright, violence of others” (between 4% and 7% of all reported injuries each year since 2004) and they were on the receiving end of incidents described as “injured by person – violent” (between 5% and 7% of all reported injuries in the same period) (source)

Organisations/employers need to manage stress in the same way they manage all other risks to the safety and health of their employees. It is advisable that organisations include stress when completing risk assessment – which is a statutory duty. Employers must also take into account, when conducting risk assessments, the General Principles of Prevention (Schedule 3 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005). One of the principles requires employers to ‘adapt work to the individual, especially as regards the choice of systems of work, with a view in particular, to alleviating monotonous work and work at a predetermined work rate and to reducing the effect of this work on health.

Work Positive – Prioritising Organisational Stress (H.S.A Publication, 2005) is a guidance document on preventing workplace stress. The guidance sets out a 5-step approach which gives employers the template and opportunity to improve the culture of their workplace:

Step 1: Look at the hazards

Step 2: Identify who might be harmed and how

Step 3: Evaluate the risk

Step 4: Take action and record the findings

Step 5: Monitor and review

 

Your employee’s health is paramount.

While there is a growing acceptance that most employees must now be flexible in their approach to work, it should not be at the expense of their health and safety. So, whether you are restructuring for future survival, expanding your services or working at new heights, remember to include ‘stress’ in your risk assessments to ensure that the risk is minimised.

 

Thanks for reading!

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Resources for you:

YourMentalHealth.ie (from the HSE)

OSHA Europe

 

Sources:

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work EUROPEAN RISK OBSERVATORY REPORT

 

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