Health and safety reps warn workplace stress at record levels

Written by
Changeboard Team

10 Oct 2016

10 Oct 2016 • by Changeboard Team

In a survey of over 1,000 health and safety reps, it has been revealed that their top concern is work-related stress.

The report, published by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), found that seven in ten reps cited stress as a problem, up 3% from a similar survey conducted in 2014. 

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The message from the shop floor is clear, stress is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Pressures of long working hours and now low job security are being felt in workplaces across the UK.”

Public sector workers are particularly like to be dealing with stress, as employees are concerned by government cuts. Some 93% of reps in central government offices cited stress in their top five workplace hazards, with respondents working in education (89%) and health services (82%) also highly concerned. 

This concern does not appear confined to businesses of a particular profile, as stress is the most common hazard faced by reps in companies of all sizes. The number of reps from medium-sized companies (50-99 employees) concerned by stress levels increased to 75% from 62%. 

Stress levels also rose across the UK, as Northern Ireland reported the biggest increase in reps citing it as their biggest concern (up to 78% from 65% in 2014). Increases were also notable in the North of England, Scotland and the South West. 

O’Grady added: “It’s in no-one’s interests to have overstretched workforces. People who experience high anxiety are less productive and are more likely to have time off. Stress is preventable if staff have reasonable workloads, supportive managers and a workplace free from violence, bullying and harassment.” 

TUC guidelines on dealing with stress

TUC have published guidance on dealing with stress at work, highlighting three key points:

  • Stress is not a weakness or your fault: it can affect anyone at any time.
  • Don’t let the stigma of mental health force you to suffer in silence: but instead talk to someone like your union rep, a friend, your GP or a support service.
  • Stress-related illnesses caused by work are preventable. Employers have a legal responsibility to reduce or remove anything at work that could make you ill – and that includes workplace stress.