Work Related Stress Prevention – European Guidance from the ILO

Stress Prevention at Work 

Practical improvements for stress prevention in the workplace

Stress Prevention at Work is a free download from the International Labour Organisation dealing with work-related stress prevention, one of the important issues in workplaces across the world. The negative impacts of stress are multiform and can include circulatory and gastrointestinal diseases as well as physical, psychosomatic and psycho-social problems. These, in turn, can lead to poor work performance, high accident and injury rates, and low productivity.

It is important to optimise work conditions and organisation.

Stress Prevention in the UK

The HSE has developed the Management Standards which asks managers to focus on 6 key areas of:

  • Demands – this includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.
  • Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
  • Support – this 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.
  • Roles – 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) management and how this is communicated to the workforce.

Although groundbreaking when first introduced, there has been criticism that the standards do not give a meaningful stress prevention risk assessment.  The difficulty being that stress is a subjective and each person has there own tolerance; which always sends shivers down the spines of senior management and dread from health and safety specialists, trying to develop a universal tool for the workplace.

The Manual

Stress prevention at Work Checkpoints
Stress prevention at Work Checkpoints

This manual from 2012 by the International Labour Organisation builds on the early work of the HSE and includes easy-to-apply checkpoints for identifying stressors in working life and mitigating their harmful effects.

It also provides guidance on linking workplace risk assessment with the process of stress prevention. The checkpoints in this volume are good practice for enterprises and organisations in general, and they are especially useful for companies and organisations that wish to incorporate stress prevention into their overall occupational safety and health policy and management systems. Each of the checkpoints – describes an action, indicates why it is necessary and how to carry it out, and provides further hints and points to remember.

Included in the ILO version are issues of leadership, justice and work-life balance with a simple tick sheet supplied to aid the struggling risk assessor.  Recommended reading.

This publication will be essential reading for national authorities, company and organisational managers, trade unions, occupational safety and health practitioners, and other parties with an interest in workplace stress prevention.

See also

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