We can manage workplace stress, says campaign

With the government’s spending cuts putting both workers and our communities at risk, October’s European Health and Safety Week will provide a vital opportunity to promote good health and safety practice.

Job cuts are leaving those who remain faced with rising workloads, while cuts to pay and the fear of redundancy combine to hit morale and leave workers stressed.

That’s a toxic cocktail that can make work unhealthy, while a workforce that is stressed and distracted by financial worries is also unlikely to provide the very best service.

But that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

The theme of this year’s European Health and Safety Week, which takes from 20-26 October, makes it clear - Healthy workplaces manage stress.

Work-related stress is the adverse reaction – including ill health – that people can have to excessive pressures or other types of demand that are placed on them at work.

Pressure can be a positive motivating factor, but when it becomes excessive, it can cause stress.

Ad if an employer fails to properly assess for stress, and then implement measures to prevent and control it, workers are put at risk and a workplace can become unhealthy.

UNISON members are safer and healthier in workplaces with active safety reps, and where there are proper checks for risks and hazards.

This isn’t just important for our members as workers, but for everyone in the wider community too, because a safe and healthy workplace is also a safe and healthy school, hospital or town hall.

A healthy, unstressed nurse, teaching assistant or council worker will provide a better, safer service for everyone.

European Health and Safety Week offers an ideal opportunity to:

  • work with employers to tackle workplace stress;
  • make the workplace healthier for you and others; for
  • safety reps to meet and speak with your members and potential members;
  • members and potential members to raise concerns about workplace stress or other health and safety hazards; to
  • campaign for properly-funded, publicly-provided local services, thus challenging the cuts that harm health and safety and the services themselves;
  • recruit and organise against the spending and pay cuts, and the attack on jobs and health and safety.

There are plenty of things that you could do – here are just a few suggestions to get you thinking and planning:

  • inspect the workplace or assist a new safety rep to do so, using UNISON’s inspection materials;
  • hold a union meeting to raise awareness – during lunch time, if this will increase turnout – and invite non-members;
  • carry out a body or risk mapping exercise – a simple and effective way to identify areas of concern at your members’ workplace;
  • find out if your employer has a workplace policy on stress and has implemented appropriate measures for the prevention and control of what causes stresses at work.

Use the UNISON online catalogue to check for health and safety resources to help your work.

European Health and Safety Week 2014

UNISON online catalogue

UNISON Knowledge: health and safety (member-only content)

Organising for Health and Safety at Work – UNISON guide to organising around health and safety [PDF]

Health and Safety Executive information on stress

TUC health and safety website