Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist
Stress is a critical factor that tends to play a role in accidents and unsafe workplaces. While it might not be part of every single accident, it does tend to play a role in the serious ones. Stress may contribute to the incident or unsafe workplaces by either distracting the individual(s) involved, adding another layer of pressure to get a job done, or as an outside source that is causing one to not fully perform their job function.
Alternatively, stress may also be the sole reason an accident occurs. Not all accidents occur from a physical hazard. Some occur from a mental one. Breaking down how stress influences accidents, we further understand what causes stress, how stress actually equates with accidents and what we can do to be preventative and avoid becoming stressed, ourselves.
What Causes Stress? The biggest factor that’s found when looking at the leading causes of stress in the workplace is overwhelmingly workload. When we are tasked with too much, our stress levels increase, making up approximately half of the cause of stress in the workplace. More than a quarter is due to “people issues” – working with someone you do not get along with or something similar. About 20 percent of all stress in the workplace is from individuals attempting to balance work life and personal life.
Lastly, a very small percentage of stress that is found is from a lack of job security. It could be safe to say that just about all of us experience stress in some form during our work day. Take the time right now to think about the time you were last stressed and determine what had caused it. Whether it was something mentioned above or not, such as lack of sleep, you should know what is causing you stress!
It is easy to see that some people are under some form of stress. They may be agitated, irritable, or may appear very upset. However, for others who are stressed, there may be absolutely no indication. Regardless of the signs, we know that if someone is focusing on their stressors, they are less apt to be focusing on the hazards of the task. If there is less time to do a task, or if someone now has more workload, the very first thing that is usually “forgotten” about is the safety needed to do a task without injury.
Alternately, stress can absolutely be “stored” in areas of your body that later hurt. Symptoms such as headaches and back pain without a recognized physical hazard very well could be stress-induced injuries. Having done countless incident investigations myself, almost every single interview with the injured party I have been told something along the lines of “There just isn’t enough time to do the task” or “They expect too high of output from us.” If we find ourselves asking, “Is this too much work for one person?” there is a good chance that it is! And while all stress may not always lead to a serious physical hazard, the mental strain may absolutely be something that causes burnout or even cause your employees to move on to another company.
The big question here is: What are we able to do to prevent our employees from getting stressed? Well, believe it or not, that is an easy one! Simply talk to them and ask! Plenty of people, including you, may already be aware of the stresses and know how to fix them. If not, starting with a great night’s sleep will work wonders!
Other great ways to encourage a stress-free workplace are through promoting a positive environment. Display personal and family photos, promote workplace wellness, cut down on the caffeine, allow more time for breaks (which actually makes people more productive) and listen to each other’s needs. When we are able to assist others, and help them determine what cause their stress, we can better the working environment that we all work in. Understanding where the issue comes from, ultimately, is the first step in getting the problem resolved!