HSE promises action to help Britain’s stressed-out workers

The Health and Safety Executive will act in the next two months to reduce the stress levels that are wrecking the health of many British workers, it has confirmed. New research shows that stress is damaging the physical and mental health of five million British workers. The HSE may plan some form of guidance, a […]

The Health and Safety Executive will act in the next two months to reduce the stress levels that are wrecking the health of many British workers, it has confirmed.

New research shows that stress is damaging the physical and mental health of five million British workers.

The HSE may plan some form of guidance, a semi-binding code of practice or (the least likely option) full legislation. But employers will be forced to act.

Two reports released by the HSE recently confirm that stress is a serious problem and draw a link between poor work design, leading to stress, and health problems such as psychiatric disorders and dependence on alcohol.

`We knew from smaller studies that stress was probably our second biggest occupational health problem, after back pain, but this research puts that beyond doubt,’ said Elizabeth Gyngell, senior policy manager at the HSE’s health directorate.

`We can now be sure that how employers design jobs affects the mental and physical health of employees. It also affects whether employees take sick leave. These reports will assist us in our work of protecting the health and competitiveness of Britain’s workforce.’

The first study, by the University of Bristol, questioned 8,000 workers across industry sectors. One in five reported feeling very or extremely stressed by their work, equating to five million workers in the UK. The study found an association between stress and job characteristics such as being overloaded and lack of management support.

The second study, of white-collar workers by University College London, looked at impacts of poor work design on health. It found a number of working conditions, including having little say in how work is done and having to resolve conflicting priorities, were associated with alcohol dependence, poor mental health, psychiatric disorders and poor physical fitness.

The HSE has indicated that it favours a code of practice.

Dominique Hammond writes for Personnel Today

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