Managing Stress Risks at Work: HSE Management Standards

Managing Stress Risks at Work: HSE Management Standards


Posted by Amanda Furness

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5 Steps to Risk Assessment

In 2001, the HSE published “Tackling work-related stress: A managers’ guide to improving and maintaining employee health and well-being” (HSE Books). These guidelines encourage managers to manage and minimise the health risks associated with stress by taking a stress risk assessment approach. They advise managers to use the same five steps to assess stress risks as are used for other health and safety risks. These five steps are:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks, by: Identifying what action you are already taking; Deciding whether it is enough; If it is not, deciding what more you need to do
  4. Record the significant findings of the assessment
  5. Review the assessment at appropriate intervals

Risk assessment and the Management Standards

HSE launched the Management Standards on 3rd November 2004. The Standards cover six categories of work-related stress ‘hazards’:

  • Demands
  • Control
  • Support
  • Relationships
  • Role
  • Change

THE MANAGEMENT STANDARDS (HSE 2004)

DEMANDS Includes issues like workload, work patterns, and the work environment

The standard is that:

  • Employees indicate that they are able to cope with the demands of their jobs; and
  • Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

What should be happening / states to be achieved:

  • The organization provides employees with adequate and achievable demands in relation to the agreed hours of work;
  • People’s skills and abilities are matched to the job demands;
  • Jobs are designed to be within the capabilities of employees; and
  • Employees’ concerns about their work environment are addressed.

CONTROL How much say the person has in the way they do their work

The standard is that:

  • Employees indicate that they are able to have a say about the way they do their work; and
  • Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

What should be happening / states to be achieved:

  • Where possible, employees have control over their pace of work;
  • Employees are encouraged to use their skills and initiative to do their work;
  • Where possible, employees are encouraged to develop new skills to help them undertake new and challenging pieces of work;
  • The organization encourages employees to develop their skills;
  • Employees have a say over when breaks can be taken; and
  • Employees are consulted over their work patterns.

SUPPORT Includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organization, line management and colleagues

The standard is that:

  • Employees indicate that they receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors; and
  • Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

What should be happening / states to be achieved:

  • The organization has policies and procedures to adequately support employees;
  • Systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to support their staff;
  • Systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to support their colleagues;
  • Employees know what support is available and how and when to access it;
  • Employees know how to access the required resources to do their job; and
  • Employees receive regular and constructive feedback.

RELATIONSHIPS Includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour

The standard is that:

  • Employees indicate that they are not subjected to unacceptable behaviours, e.g. bullying at work; and
  • Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

What should be happening / states to be achieved:

  • The organization promotes positive behaviours at work to avoid conflict and ensure fairness;
  • Employees share information relevant to their work;
  • The organization has agreed policies and procedures to prevent or resolve unacceptable behaviour;
  • Systems are in place to enable and encourage managers to deal with unacceptable behaviour; and
  • Systems are in place to enable and encourage employees to report unacceptable behaviour.

ROLE Whether people understand their role within the organization and whether the organization ensures that the person does not have conflicting roles

The standard is that:

  • Employees indicate that they understand their role and responsibilities; and
  • Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

What should be happening / states to be achieved:

  • The organization ensures that, as far as possible, the different requirements it places upon employees are compatible;
  • The organization provides information to enable employees to understand their role and responsibilities;
  • The organization ensures that, as far as possible, the requirements it places upon employees are clear; and
  • Systems are in place to enable employees to raise concerns about any uncertainties or conflicts they have in their role and responsibilities.

CHANGE How organizational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organization

The standard is that:

  • Employees indicate that the organization engages them frequently when undergoing an organizational change; and
  • Systems are in place locally to respond to any individual concerns.

What should be happening / states to be achieved:

  • The organization provides employees with timely information to enable them to understand the reasons for proposed changes;
  • The organization ensures adequate employee consultation on changes and provides opportunities for employees to influence proposals;
  • Employees are aware of the probable impact of any changes to their jobs. If necessary, employees are given training to support any changes in their jobs;
  • Employees are aware of timetables for changes;
  • Employees have access to relevant support during changes.

How will the Management Standards influence management practice?

Organisational action the main emphasis

The Management Standards are more about organizational action in terms of risk assessment and benchmarking than individual management action. The model underlying the Standards is one of constant improvement. HSE want employers to conduct organizational stress risk assessments using the Management Standards as a template, in order to establish a benchmark of how well the organization is doing at preventing and reducing stress at work. Once a benchmark has been established, the employer should work to improve its performance over time. The ultimate goal is to reach the standards set now by the best 20% of employers (measured in 2004). HSE have developed tools and guidance to enable employers to conduct suitable and sufficient risk assessments. In Equilibrium have developed a streamlined stress risk assessment service to support organisations through the risk assessment and benchmarking process, including help with using the HSE tools.

Managing ongoing risks

However, the Management Standards will also have a significant impact on all managers, because they are the people on the ground who manage stress risks in an ongoing way, and it is managers who must implement improvements introduced as a result of carrying out risk assessments. Notice that for each Standard, systems should be in place to respond to individual concerns. In reality, it is likely to be managers that will be responding, because if individuals have concerns about stress at work, managers will need to work with them to make adjustments so that risk is reduced. Managers can be trained to work proactively with teams to prevent stress at work, and to respond appropriately when stress-related problems occur, in order to reduce the risk of stress. For more information on the Standards, visit the HSE website: www.hse.gov.uk/stress

 

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