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Health & Safety


Together against stress W


By the British Safety Council


e all realise that work can be stressful, but it might surprise you to know that stress is


believed to contribute to about half of all lost working days. EU-OSHA’s Europe-wide campaign, Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress, a imed to raise awareness of the problem and two years of campaigning have helped to show employers and workers that stress and psychosocial risks can be successfully managed and prevented. The Healthy Workplaces campaigns run


by EU-OSHA are the biggest occupational safety and health campaigns in the world. So why have they chosen stress and psychosocial risks – such as bullying and harassment, lone working and excessive workloads to give just a few examples – as their most recent focus? First, the scale of the problem is huge. In fact, stress is the second most frequently reported work-related health problem. A recent poll showed that 51% of European workers consider stress common in their workplace; perhaps even more worryingly, four out of 10 workers think the problem is not handled well. What’s more, there is a lot at stake. Stressed workers are often anxious, tired, distracted and indecisive – in a word, unproductive. For individuals, the long-term effects of poorly managed psychosocial risks can be devastating and include serious mental and physical health problems. For organisations, they include poor overall business performance. Absences caused by stress generally last longer than those caused by other


124 FACILITIES


factors. Absenteesim, presenteesim (workers turning up when they are ill and unable to function properly) and increased accident and injury rates can all result from poorly managed psychosocial risks. Stress can, then, cost businesses a great deal of money. One UK estimate, for example, is that stress costs employees 1,220 euros per worker per year. In France, the cost of occupational stress is estimated at around 2-5bn euros.


The causes The causes of work-related stress are manifold and widespread. It results from poor work organisation or an unfavourable social context. It happens, for example, when people are given heavy workloads with unrealistic deadlines, or presented with conflicting demands. Poor training, ineffective communication or a lack of support from management can cause stress. And one of the biggest causes is being subjected to unacceptable behaviour such as bullying or harassment. Anxiety about job insecurity or restructuring is also a factor, and badly- managed organisation change can be a major cause. It is particularly important in the current economic climate that employers take steps to manage psychosocial risks and minimise the effects of changes in the workplace. It’s important to point out that experiencing stress at work is not the same thing as working in a job that’s demanding, responsible or fast-paced. Every job involves some degree of pressure or


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