HSE to focus on workplace stress with new strategy – health and social care among sectors in spotlight

The Health and Safety Executive has recently launched a new health strategy, with a focus on two areas that could have a big impact on businesses and staff working in the care sector – managing stress and musculoskeletal disorders.

It's likely the HSE will look at work-related stress in the care sector because its statistics for 2015-16 show that stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; and public administration and defence.


Work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders and lung disease in HSE's sights

Anthony Arcari, CFW's health and safety consultant, says: "The new initiative marks a renewed focus on work related stress and musculoskeletal issues for the executive, which largely withdrew in 2008 from involvement in health issues it said were as easily influenced by employees’ home lives as by their working conditions. The strategy will be underpinned by sector plans for 19 industrial areas, based on industry type and risk profile."

The strategy has three main themes: work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and lung disease. Speaking at the strategy launch event in December, HSE chair Martin Temple said that stress and MSDs account for 80% of working time lost to sickness in the UK, while lung disease is responsible for around 90% of work-related deaths. 

The sectors include broad industries such as manufacturing, construction and waste and recycling but also more narrowly defined activities including bio-engineering, explosives, fairgrounds and theme parks, onshore oil and gas wells and offshore energy. The plans are still subject to consultation with industry online and at events to be held in early 2017.

The drafts identify the top three strategic priorities for each sector for the next three to five years and the actions the HSE proposes to take to improve health in these areas in the sector.

The regulator’s strategy is separate from the safety and health strategy, Helping Great Britain Work Well, issued in February, which the HSE said sets goals for all stakeholders, including business and industry bodies to help achieve.

“The big part of HSE’s work in this area will be to drive improvements will be engaging with businesses and organisations,” said Temple of the health strategy. 

Martin Temple, HSE's chair, said: “But there will always be an iron first in the velvet glove. HSE wouldn’t be doing its job if it didn’t bring to book those who callously or thoughtlessly ruin the lives of others by their actions.” 

He said it was important the executive had clear measures of success for each sector so it could measure the strategy’s success. “We are working on this,” he said. 

How will the new strategy impact on the care sector?

Well according to its latest Health & Safety at Work statistics for 2015-16: Stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; and public administration and defence.

By occupation, jobs that are common across public service industries (such as healthcare workers; teaching professionals; business, media and public service professionals) show higher levels of stress as compared to all jobs. The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work related stress, depression or anxiety were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support. 

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