Stress Risk Assessments

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 23 September 2020 Issues covered: Stress risk assessment during Covid-19

Does Dr McCrea have any specific advice on conducting stress risk assessments at this time? These are being conducted due to mental health concerns.


Dr McCrea: The stress risk assessment as an assessment is a very nebulous and intangible concept I have to say and increasingly I find it not to be a tool that has much validity. Because it all stems back to how do you measure stress? How do you assess it and how do you actually audit it? And I think it's impossible at the Health and Safety Executive standards. I'm not a fan of and people who know me know that because I find them unwieldy. In fact, I've met very few employers who use them. I think what has to happen is an individual, the employee, I think a conversation or a consultation has to take place to evaluate whether individuals are feeling up their work environment, their situation, and indeed the workload is causing them some difficulties.

There are three aspects with this. First of all, the work environment. Many people who are working from home need to have adequate facilities to work from home to avoid not only musculoskeletal problems but also mental health problems. And most employers now would have what is called DSE checklist or a workstation checklist that they can send to the employee email and ask them to complete. And essentially what it does, it asks people to confirm whether they feel their setup is adequate for purpose. And if not, we grant our team within limits to purchase suitable equipment to ensure that they can work safely and effectively and then to claim it back. So that currently is what organisations are doing to a limit. So that's a workplace assessment..

As we're going through the workload as such, essentially people fall into two categories where they get into difficulties. Those who are copers and those who are avoiders. Copers are people who simply are overwhelmed with a deluge of work. What we find in the current pandemic situation is with percentages of employees who are on furlough, the remaining employees who are working are a lot more stretched because of having to pick up workload that would ordinarily be done by their colleagues. And that has fuelled some discourse and some discontentment. I think it's important to measure and monitor the workload of an individual and that can be done quite simply by questionnaire, but also by ensuring that people are taking regular breaks. If most people working from around computers or devices of some instruction, so that can be monitored and measures and breaks need to be taken. And also in your regular catch-up meetings, one-to-one conversations, check up on the workload is important. Those are the copers. What we want to do is ensure they don't become overwhelmed and overloaded.

The avoiders ought to be people where there is a skill training or competence mismatch being the demands of the job that they're being asked to do and their abilities or capabilities. Those people become pretty stressed out fairly quickly. So I think a skill check, a review of competencies are part of their personal development plan that most people will have, and also training is important. What we have used in our business and employees who are on furlough, we have encouraged them to participate in training, which one is allowed to do when on furlough, make sure their skills are developed and kept up to date. So I think a sort of register of skills and training needs to continue. And most training today can often be provided remotely. You package those three things together, I think that will constitute, in my opinion, pretty effective risk assessment.

This article is correct at 23/09/2020

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