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Charlie Duff

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Editor, HRzone.co.uk

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Stress assessed: 40 million Europeans suffering from stress

stress

Stress appears to be endemic in workplaces across Europe, affecting more than 40 million employees in the European Union and costing the regional economy a huge E20 million.

In response, the British Standards Institute and Nottingham University are leading an international team to develop good practice standards for assessing and managing work-related stress.
 
But while European Council (EC) Directive 89/391/EEC stipulates that assessing and managing all kinds of risks to workers’ health is their employers’ responsibility, there is currently no official standard or benchmark for good practice for tackling psycho-social risks. Such psycho-social risks relate to problems in a social work context that could lead to psychological or physical ill health.
 
Dr Stavroula Leka, associate professor in occupational health psychology at the University of Nottingham, said: “Work-related stress has been a priority in modern working life for the past years, but despite a number of good initiatives at national, European and international levels, there is still a clear need for an official benchmark in this area.”
 
She added that the aim of the new BSI standard, called a Publicly Available Specification, was intended to help organisations to promote good health among their staff.
 
Nottingham will use the standard as a basis for developing training courses for HR managers, occupational health and safety managers, therapists and managers of small-to-medium businesses.
 
It is being devised by a steering group, which also includes representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Health and Safety Executive, the EC-funded PRIMA-EF consortium which is undertaking a collaborative project on psycho-social risk management, and the European Commission.
 
Evelyn Kortum from the WHO said that the body recognised that psycho-social risks at work were a public health issue, with eight per cent of depression globally linked to environmental factors such as stress at work.
 
“The development of a standard in psycho-social risk management will provide a welcome basis for policy development in traditional and emerging risks affecting the modern workplace,” she added.

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Charlie Duff

Editor, HRzone.co.uk

Read more from Charlie Duff
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