Stress Awareness Month – 5 stress risk assessments

14 Apr 2017

As part of Stress Awareness Month, which runs until 30 April, here are 5 stress risk assessments health and safety reps can do at work.

For organisations to be more effective in their approach to dealing with stressors in the workplace, it will require a wide range of effective policies and procedures that are put into place and constantly monitored to ensure that they are working efficiently.

As jobs are cut across the civil service, often without comparable cuts in the work that government departments and agencies expect their staff to do, the workers who remain find their workloads increasing. Many find that there is also increasing pressure to work additional hours to keep the workloads to a reasonable level. Add to this the continuing uncertainties about career futures, and the stage is set for a massive rise in stress-related problems.

PCS has produced guidance to highlight the negative impact that job cuts, increased workloads and relocation are having on our members and what we want you to do to address stress-related impacts.


Undertaking stress risk assessments

The Health and Safety Executive recommends that stress risk assessments follow the standard ‘5 steps’ approach:

1 Identifying the hazards

In many ways, the first step ‘identifying the hazards’ has already been done – the key hazard areas are: demand; control; support; relationships; role; change.

Demand includes work patterns and the work environment. Control is how much say the person has in the way they do their work. Support is what encouragement, sponsorship and resources is provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.

Relationships include what positive working there is to avoid conflict and deal with unacceptable behaviour.

Another possible hazard areas is whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.

And change is how organisational change – large or small – is managed and communicated in the organisation.

Organisations may determine that one or more of these do not apply to their circumstances but the majority will need to assess the risks from all 6.


2 Identifying who may be harmed and how

Most organisations will not already hold detailed data that would enable them to determine the risk factors associated with each of the hazard areas. To help with this, HSE offers an indicator tool and an analysis tool to help organisations in assessing the outcomes from their surveys.

A cooperative approach to tackling stress, with management, members and union reps working together, is likely to provide the best environment to maximise returns from such initiatives.


3 Evaluate the risks and identify appropriate preventive and protective measures

Having identified the sources of pressure within the workplace and which are the most significant, the employer will need to discuss suitable control methods for the risks.

In the 1999 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, there is a clear hierarchy for dealing with risks, as follows:

  • combating the risks at source
  • adapting the work to the individual
  • adapting to technical progress
  • replacing the dangerous by the non-dangerous or the less dangerous
  • developing a coherent overall prevention policy.


4 Record the findings

HSE recommends that the outcomes from stress risk assessments are recorded in an action plan.

5 Monitor and review

As with all risk assessments, it is important that the assessment itself and the implementation and effectiveness of the control strategies are monitored and periodically reviewed.

Download and read our preventing and tackling stress at work toolkit.

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