stressEmployers today take all sorts of precautions to help keep their staff from harm. From thorough training to the use of the latest personal protective equipment, everybody is looking to do all they can to keep people safe in the workplace. The number of things which have an impact on the level of risk we face each day at work is vast. While there may be a variety of concrete changes we can make in the workplace, our safety can also rely heavily on our frame of mind.

Stress is commonly cited as playing a role in increasing danger in the workplace. Figures from the HSE suggest that almost half of all work related illnesses involve stress. With so many people suffering from stress at work, it is all the more important that we are able to recognise and determine any link between high levels of stress and an increased level of risk at work.

The effects of stress

Stress is a complex issue which affects each of us differently, but there are a number of common symptoms which could have some bearing on our safety at work. When we are under a lot of stress, it's not unusual for our mind to wander when we are performing tasks which we are used to performing with some regularity. This can pose a danger in certain cases.

While any working scenario which contains an element of danger will undoubtedly require us to wear protective clothing and to take other steps to protect ourselves, our safety can often come down to our own actions. It is for this reason that training is considered a matter of utmost importance. It is in these situations that stress is likely to increase our chances of sustaining an injury. Simply put, stress increases risk.

What can be done?

There are two steps to be taken when stress is putting us in danger at work. Each involves effort from both the employer and the worker.

The first course of action is to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect ourselves in the event of an accident. This might include paying particular attention to safety equipment. It's important for workers to remember that we should not only be looking to reduce the chance of an accident happening, but we should also be looking for ways in which to reduce the damage if an accident should happen. Personal protective equipment is an excellent means of doing so.

The second thing we can do is to reduce stress. Just as employers are required to provide ergonomic and up-to-date safety equipment, they should be looking after the emotional welfare of their employees. This might include providing services which can help employees deal with any stress they might be experiencing, whether or not this has been caused by work.

The knowledge that a company is concerned about the welfare of its employees can sometimes be enough in itself to dramatically reduce the level of stress felt in the workplace. Anything an employer can do to increase the happiness of its workforce will not only reduce the chance of accidents occurring, but it can also have a positive impact on overall productivity.

Preventing stress

Recognising stress as a danger in the workplace allows us to deal with it in new and effective ways. Just as staff members undergo thorough training to the end of preventing accidents at work, it is possible for employers to provide help to workers looking to prevent stress. Knowing how to reduce stress when we are experiencing it is one thing, but if we can prevent the issue altogether this will be hugely beneficial.

While each employee will have different ways of keeping stress levels down, there are a number of things which can be done by employers to help everyone. Creating a relaxed environment is important. This can be done both physically and emotionally. As well as creating a spacious and open workspace, it can be helpful for employers to ensure that staff members feel relaxed and open to discussion when they are at work.

If employees feel that they are able to speak to their co-workers about problems which arrive at work, they are less likely to become stressed. Lower levels of stress mean lower levels of risk. An open dialogue should be maintained by both workers and employers, in order to create the most relaxed working environment possible.