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Why is stress a workplace safety concern?

Many individuals associate workplace safety with hazards that can result in significant injury. Dangerous jobs may require workers to climb ladders, utilize sophisticated tools, or work in hazardous environments—or all three. To avoid injuries, a power company line worker, for example, must adhere to stringent safety regulations.

The majority of vocations, particularly desk ones, are not inherently risky, but some safety considerations are not as clear. An increasing body of information suggests that the greatest threat to employee safety in many organizations isn’t necessarily the working conditions or duties themselves; the greatest concern may be stress.

The workplace and stress

To begin with, it is critical to recognize that stress can arise from both work-related and non-work-related causes.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, workplace stress was on the rise, and the sources of workplace stress varied. In an article, Gallup highlighted five major reasons for employee burnout.

  1. Unfair treatment at work

  2. unmanageable workload.

  3. lack of role clarity.

  4. Lack of communication and support from the manager

  5. unreasonable time pressure.

How does stress affect safety?

Many workplace stress discussions focus on productivity, but employers should also consider its influence on safety and health. Here are four ways that stress can jeopardize employee safety.

  1. Stress is a diversion. When you are stressed, the source of that stress is frequently on your mind. A looming deadline, a dispute with a manager, rumors of layoffs, or any number of other factors can divert your attention from what you are doing. As a result, you may forget safety measures or make mistakes that result in injury.

  2. Shortcuts might be caused by stress. When a worker is under pressure, taking shortcuts becomes a clear possibility and can result in damage. Even if all safety procedures are followed, hurrying through chores might be harmful.

  3. Substance misuse can result from stress. Many people use drugs, alcohol, or prescriptions to cope with stress outside of work, but the effects of substance abuse can flow over into the workplace and cause safety hazards, according to safety experts. Coffee, a mainstay in many companies, can also help to improve workplace safety. Workers with hectic schedules frequently turn to coffee or other caffeinated beverages for an energy boost, but too much caffeine can increase stress symptoms.

  4. Stress can exacerbate violence. Assaults cause an alarming number of job injuries. While other factors frequently play a role in workplace violence episodes, stressed-out individuals are more likely to participate in violent activities that can result in injury.

Stress recognition and management

Employers are responsible for providing a safe environment for their employees. This involves assisting employees in dealing with stress caused by their jobs, personal lives, or COVID-19. This is not to say that work should be free of stress – stress is a part of life – but it is critical for firms to assist their employees in managing their stress in order for them to be healthy and productive.

Businesses must collaborate with safety and health specialists to learn to recognize the indications of stress and implement programs and policies to manage it. Implementing stress management programs will not only keep workers safer, but it will also save the company money by lowering absenteeism, boosting productivity, lowering worker’s compensation claims and other expenditures associated with injuries, and lowering turnover. Stress is unavoidable in life, but it should not endanger anyone.