Health and Safety Authority launches new work related stress campaign

The Health and Safety Authority has launched a new information campaign aimed at raising awareness of the damaging effects of work related stress. Work related stress is stress caused or made worse by work. It refers to situations where employees perceive their work in such a way that they have serious and on-going difficulty coping with day-to-day demands.

A 2016 study by the ESRI noted that stress, anxiety and depression are the second highest causes of work related illness in Ireland and are associated with the longest absence from work. A European-wide survey on working conditions conducted by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work found that 22 per cent of workers in Ireland experienced stress at work ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’. The proportion that ‘always’ experienced stress was the third highest in the EU15 and tenth highest among the 34 countries surveyed.

To assist employers manage this, the Health and Safety Authority, in conjunction with the State Claims Agency, developed the ‘Work Positive’ online tool. Available at WorkPositive.ie, it helps employers to implement a structured and collaborative approach to managing work related stress. With employees at the heart of the process, the free tool provides clear guidance for employers to design and implement focused action plans and interventions.

The WorkPositive tool was developed by the Health and Safety Authority, State Claims Agency, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM ) Network Ireland and supported by Employee Wellbeing Ltd. It’s a free, easy to use, innovative, confidential, psychosocial risk management process providing feedback on workplace stress, employee psychological wellbeing and critical incident exposure in the workplace. Following structured guidance, employers can develop an action plan to mitigate against known workplace stressors.

WorkPositive helps employers to:

Identify psychosocial risks and opportunities across their workforce

Develop an effective health and wellbeing action plan

Improve employee engagement and performance

Comply with current health and safety legislation

There are four stages in the WorkPositive tool:

Prepare: Preparation is the key to success. This stage involves building a business case, securing commitment, establishing a Steering Group and developing a project plan.

Measure: The measure stage involves profiling the organisation to identify and assess psychosocial risk across the workforce.

Action: Once you have completed profiling your organisation you are ready to start working on your action plan. Your plan should outline exactly what is required to reach your WorkPositiveCI objectives.

Review: Programme evaluation and review provides essential feedback that will allow employers to modify the plan and better meet the needs of employees and stakeholders.

According to Patricia Murray, Organisational Psychologist with the Health and Safety Authority, “Employees behave differently to their ‘normal’ behaviour when under high levels of stress. They can be angrier, more confrontational, show less time for others and impose an urgency on situations which is unrealistic and tense for those around them. Or they can withdraw and become evasive or prone to upset and over time easily overcome by even minor challenges. This type of behavior is clearly unproductive for the individual and difficult for their colleagues to deal with, but it’s also bad for business.

“Employers need to be alert for the signs of work related stress in their organisations. All employers have a duty of care to provide a safe and healthy workplace and this duty extends to mental as well as physical safety and health. The benefits of doing so not only extend to employees themselves but also to the business in the form of reduced absenteeism and increased employee engagement, performance and productivity.

“High levels of work related stress are potentially very damaging for anyone, no matter what their job status or experience”,

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