According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), work related stress has climbed to its highest rate in the last 16 years against a background of little year on year change in overall rates of occupational ill health over that period.
The HSE’s Labour Force Survey (LFS) results show the proportion of people who reported experiencing work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016-2017 rose by 7% before reaching a rate of 1610 per 100,000 workers falling to occupational ill health.
This has led to stress related illness becoming the most common form of work related illness for the first time, overtaking musculoskeletal disorders. This contrasts with the rates of workplace injuries falling to their lowest levels since 2001 at 1970 per 100,000 workers, with 2001 showing work related injuries at 3,980 per 100,000 workers. Although general on-site safety has clearly taken the steps forward to mitigate and lower risks, stress and mental health have only increased in severity.
The annual LFS demonstrates that over 526,000 people have had a work-related mental health condition over this period compared to 487,000 the year before .This has also shown an increase in the numbers of working days lost due to stress, depression and anxiety rising by 7% from 11.7million days in 2015/6 to 12.5million in 2017.
It is clear that in respect of any wellbeing programme, companies should see these figures as a call to action in an attempt to reduce the impact of work-related ill health within their workforce. As health and safety professionals, we recommend that the long-awaited review into the management of mental health at work (Thriving at Work), currently containing 40 wide ranging recommendations for both businesses and government, must be adopted if businesses wish to increase the wellbeing of their workforce.
PM Theresa May had asked Paul Farmer (CEO of MIND) and mental health campaigner and former HBOS chairman Lord Dennis Stevenson to carry out a review on how employers can better inform staff on mental health. The review has called upon employers from all industries and backgrounds to adopt six mental health “Core Standards” as a basic foundation for workplace mental health:
- Producing, implementing and communicating a ‘Mental Health at Work’ Plan
- Develop mental health awareness within their workforce
- Encourage open conversations about mental health within their workforces and provide appropriate support
- Improve workplace conditions and provide a healthy work-life balance, with meaningful opportunities for improvement
- Promote effective people management
- Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing
As health and safety practitioners, we must look into all aspects of health and safety, with mental health being a significant area considering as it directly affects the productivity of your workforce. As business leaders, we all aspire to grow however that growth can only build momentum when the workforce is motivated and most importantly understood.