A stress risk assessment is simply a careful examination of what in a workplace could cause staff to suffer from work-related stress. This is so that you can weigh up whether you have done enough, or should do more to prevent harm.
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health of their employees at work. This includes taking steps to make sure they do not suffer stress-related illness as a result of their work.
Employers also have a specific duty under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. They must undertake risk assessments that seek to identify, and eliminate or reduce, risks to their employees’ health, safety and welfare. Stress is one of the risks to health, safety and welfare that must be assessed.
Risk assessments must be reviewed periodically. This should be whenever there is a change to any aspect of the work activity which could significantly affect the health, safety, or wellbeing of employees. They should also be reviewed under any other circumstances where the existing risk assessment is thought to be no longer valid. The regular period of review should be decided locally. This will depend on the level of risk and how susceptible to change the activity is. This includes a stress risk assessment.
Hazard Identification – Factors to be considered
When considering the likelihood that a work-activity could result in employees becoming stressed, it is necessary to first identify the potential hazards. The section below includes the factors identified by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) as being most significant contributors to workplace stress. Also a list of eight factors – external factors that can impact on individual ability to cope with work pressures
1. Demands – High volume of work, competing priorities, unrealistic deadlines, intense periods of activity, requirement for very fast work. Also expectation of very long hours, high pressured environment.
2. Control Level over pattern of work and breaks, inability to decide on work speed, priorities, access to flexible working.
3. Role Clarity – understanding of role itself; how to carry it out; how it relates to immediate team and the wider organisation’s strategic plans.
4. Relationships – Inter-relationships with work colleagues, staff, and manager(s); bullying; harassment; conflict; unkind behaviour.
5. Support in dealing with work difficulties, accessibility, constructive feedback, praise for good work, encouragement.
6. Support from Colleagues – Support/assistance in dealing with work difficulties, respect.
7. Change Communication, consultation, and management of change.
8. External Factors – Mental health, other serious ill health, bereavement, dependant illness.
Required Actions and Prioritisation
Ideally, when considering risk assessment, the goal should be to remove the hazard. In relation to work-related stress, this may only be possible in a limited number of situations. The standard adopted in law when considering the cost, both financial and operational, of implementing a control measure is reasonable practicability. The next best measure is either to reduce the hazard, or the likelihood of it causing harm, through various control mechanisms.
When determining the specific required actions, consider the gaps you found when looking at existing control measures. Also consider whether equivalent measures could be implemented in the relevant work area.
Always consult with the affected staff for their contribution to ideas that might help resolve the difficulties. Consequently, this can either remove the hazard or reduce the level of risk.
It is important to appreciate that whilst some control measures help to reduce or prevent stress, others serve only to support employees who are already experiencing stress. Whilst, in time, these support mechanisms may assist those employees in recovering from this episode of stress, and even avoiding future episodes, the employee has already experienced harm. This in no way invalidates such measures which are widely recognised as not only valuable but also an expected facility for staff of responsible employers. However, provision of support services is generally perceived by the regulatory bodies as the minimum standard an employer can adopt to manage workplace stress.
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Many First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) qualifications have expired since the 16th March 2020. The HSE have announced an extension to them to the 30th September 2020. This only applies to ones that have expired since 16th March.
The Resuscitation Council (UK) have issued an update about performing CPR on an adult who has suffered from cardiac arrest. Their advice is to perform chest compression only, not to do rescue breaths. To minimise the risk to the rescuer from being exposed to COVID-19 there should be a cloth covering the casualty’s nose and mouth. Read more
Whether your business has continued with home working or been on hold, as you consider returning to the office, there are some things you need to think about. Health and Safety being one of them.
The latest government advice can be found here https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
The latest HSE advice can be found here https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm
The HSE have updated their guidance on lone working – Protecting lone workers: How to manage the risks of working alone.
This guidance explains how to keep lone workers healthy and safe. It is for anyone who employs lone workers, or engages them as contractors etc, including self-employed people or those who work alone. Read more
Employers must provide the right workplace facilities and a working environment that’s healthy and safe for everyone, including those with disabilities. Read more
Let’s face it – no one is immune to every bug and virus known to man. It is inevitable that at some point members of staff will need to stay off work due to sickness or ill health.
The majority of times a couple of days rest and recuperation is all that is needed. Your valued staff member is soon back with you, bright eyed and bushy tailed.
However, what do you do if a member of staff is continually taking time off or perhaps has been off ill for a prolonged period?
What does the law say?
In the UK if an employee is off work due to illness for more than 7 days, they must obtain a “fit note” (also known as a “sick note”) from a GP or a hospital doctor.
The 7 days includes non-working days such as weekends and bank holidays.
The employee should provide the fit note to their employer in order to receive the appropriate sick pay.
The fit note could say “not fit for work” or “may be fit for work” with suggestions of adjustments. The latter puts the responsibility onto the employer to offer adjustments or changes that would make it easier for the employee to return to work. However, these are not compulsory.
Long term sick – this term applies to an employee who is off work for more than 4 consecutive weeks.
How should you approach the matter?
Approaching any employee about their sickness absence should be done with sensitivity. Especially if the reason for their absence is because of a mental health issue.
Being pushy or unsympathetic can often make them feel worse, which in turn could lead to more time off. Try to find ways to help them feel reassured about coming back to work. Perhaps by offering reduced hours or amended duties.
At the same time if you suspect an employee’s reasons for absence are not genuine or feel that an excessive amount of time off is being taken it is advisable to keep accurate absence records and monitor an employee’s sick leave. An employer may invoke the disciplinary or capability procedure to deal with the sickness absence. They will need to obtain medical information along the way.
What can be done to help the employee?
Where an employee has been off long term, keep in touch with them. Have regular chats and discuss ways they could be accommodated.
Consider a phased return to work or, if reasonable, offer flexible or part time working.
If an employee is classed as disabled, the employer is legally obliged to make reasonable, necessary adjustments to enable the employee to return to work.
Can you dismiss an employee?
An employer can choose to dismiss an employee for long term ill health and/or excessive absence.
However, caution should be taken, advice should be obtained and other options explored before taking this step. An employee may decide to take their case to an employment tribunal if they think they’ve been unfairly dismissed or discriminated against.
If you need help with your HR get in touch with ClockworkHR
The HSE have redesigned their online guidance for DSE.
Their website also has related resources including their free, downloadable publication Working with display screen equipment (DSE)
The HSE have updated their guide to Musculoskeletal Disorders (INDG143).
This leaflet (previously published in 2012) provides practical guidance on reducing the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling. It helps employers comply with their duties under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. Read more
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