Shine a light on: work-related stress

The HSE’s Go Home Healthy campaign, was launched at the HSE annual conference on 18 September 2017, it represents an overall goal to improve working conditions. This in turn protects workers’ health, enabling everyone to go home healthy from work.

So far, to show our support for the campaign, we’ve covered two out of three of the objectives putting work-related lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders in the spotlight.

Now on to the third topic, as we shine a light on work-related stress. Last reported by the HSE as the cause of 12.5 million working days lost each year, stress is now the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK. 526,000 people in the UK are reported to be suffering from work-related stress, anxiety and depression.

Professor Cary Cooper, in a video for the HSE, attributes this increase to the country’s shift in industry from manufacturing to a service-knowledge based economy – which is all about people. He also believes that many musculoskeletal problems can also be linked to stress, as it’s easier to say ‘I have a bad back’ rather than ‘I have depression’. In reality, this means the number of sufferers is likely to be even higher.

What is stress?

The HSE defines stress as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’. Stress at work might occur if an employee feels their job demands too much of them, for example too much work and not enough hours in the day or that they don’t have the right skill set or knowledge for tasks they’ve been given.

Who is likely to be affected?

Stress at work can affect anyone, in any job role. However the HSE have pinpointed the following jobs, amongst others, as particularly high-risk:

  • Teachers
  • Bailiffs
  • Social workers
  • Child services staff
  • Fire fighters
  • Police
  • Armed forces
  • Prison officers
  • Security staff

In November 2017, a report by the HSE hit the headlines revealing that those working in welfare, nursing and midwifery and teaching professions are most effected by work-related stress. The NHS England’s annual staff survey has recently shown that work-related stress is on the rise across the organisation, as reported by SHP Online.

How to keep your employees safe on the job

What can be done to try and reduce the top cause of working days lost in the UK? The HSE outline the six main areas of work design which can affect stress levels as:

  • Demands – such as workload, work patterns and the work environment
  • Control – how much say, the person has in the way they do their work
  • Support – includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues
  • Relationships – this includes promoting positive working, to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles
  • Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation

As an employer it is your duty to protect your employees from stress at work and consider their work design. One of the main ways of doing this is to complete a stress risk assessment, and then following up on any findings. The HSE’s Management Standards are a useful tool in ensuing you follow good practice and promote a healthy working environment.

As part of successfully protecting your employees, it is important to ensure stress has its own section within your Health & Safety Policy. Our Health and Safety Management System advises:

‘Should a colleague be suffering from stress or should they make it known to their manager or other member of management, it is important that this is recognised as a serious problem. It should not be seen as a personal problem but an issue which management are committed to addressing.’

This statement comes alongside the factors to consider and the steps to take if work-related stress is identified, so there is absolute clarity for all stakeholders.

Not only does reducing the risk of stress at work keep your employees safe, a workforce with good wellbeing can also be beneficial to you as an employer. A happier workforce can be more productive, have less absence levels and generally make for a better, more attractive workplace. For some inspiration, take a look at some of the great work already happening in these case studies from the HSE.

How to keep yourself safe on the job

Despite the high number of cases of work-related stress each year, many people are reluctant to talk about it. As Acas aptly put it:

‘There is still a stigma attached to stress and people still think they will be seen as weak if they admit they are struggling. But stress is not a weakness, and can affect anyone at any level of an organisation.’

Bupa outlines that stress can cause both mental and physical effects. Some symptoms might include:

  • Feeling that you can’t cope
  • Lacking confidence
  • Feeling depressed
  • Feeling anxious
  • Feeling more emotional
  • Feeling tired and lacking energy
  • Headaches
  • Chest pains or tightness in your chest

It’s important to note that everyone reacts to stress in different ways, and that it can happen to anyone. The best way to keep yourself safe if you are feeling stressed at work, is to talk to your employer – don’t be afraid!

Go Home Healthy

This marks our last in the ‘Shine a light on’ series, showing our full support for the Go Home Healthy campaign, working towards a goal we share with them – supporting employers in providing a safe working environment. #workright

Could you do with a helping hand in providing a safe working environment for your employees? That’s exactly what we are here for. Call 020 3740 3744 or email to find out how we can make safety simple in your business.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official Food Safety, Fire Safety and Health & Safety advice. Shield Safety take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email

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