Audiences at HSE’s first summit on stress heard of the ‘damaged lives and human costs’ behind data that shows the problem of work-related stress has failed to go away.
Peter Brown director of the health and work strategy which focuses on work-related stress as one of three priority health areas to tackle in Britain, said: “Figures for work-related stress have remained stubbornly static since 2009. There’s also a worrying sense of increasing mental health issues at work and in society at large.”
Addressing delegates last week on 15 March, at Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Westminster, he said 11.7m days were lost due to work related stress – which is 45% of all working days lost to ill health, according to 2015/16 statistics from the Labour Force Survey.
Seven in 10 identified identified stress as the top concern for employers and employees, in a recent TUC survey of 1,000 workplaces. “Those figures represent the damaged lives and human cost to individuals with families,” he said.
Brown was speaking at the event featuring talks from leaders in the field, including Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Carole Spiers of the International Stress Management Association and Hugh Robertson.
Regardless of HSE's work in the area, the event was focused on the responsibility of those organisations attending to tackle stress as much as its efforts and from government.
Penny Mordaunt, the minister for disabled people, health and work, in one of the final sessions said: “I look forward to seeing industries across GB, working in partnership with HSE, respond positively in preventing and tackling work-related stress; this is a key strand of the new Health and Work strategy. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”
“Evidence shows there is a need to start with the fundamentals, raise awareness of work-related stress as a health issue amongst employers, and reinforce the legal requirement for an organisation to address work-related stress in its risk assessment,” she added.
She referenced an HSE survey of health and safety personnel which showed ‘even amongst such an informed group’, many employers didn’t understand they had a legal duty to assess work-related stress or recognise work-related stress as a workplace hazard.
HSE is expected to issue new guidance on implementing the stress management standards in plans for tackling stress contained in its health and work strategy launched late last year. HSE is also due to carry out stress pilots in sectors including education and health, which it has identified as priority areas.
HSE has invited the summit attendees to test its work in the area including a new Stress Indicator Tool (SIT), an online version of the current Excel-based Management Standards Indicator Tool and to view new stress webpages.
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