Work-related fatigue can be very bad for your safety and your health. But Hazards editor Rory O’Neill says union safety reps can play a crucial role in stopping employers wringing ever more work out of fewer workers.
Hazards 135, July-September 2016
Workplace stress causes heart and other chronic diseases, higher rates of sickness absence and suicides. So why, asks TUC’s Hugh Robertson, are the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and employers have done ‘sod all’ to tackle the bad management practices at the root of the problem?
Hazards 128, October-December 2014
A managerial offensive is taking place at work. Professor Phil Taylor of the University of Strathclyde Business School explains how a government blitz on employment rights and welfare, driven by a spurious austerity argument, is being mirrored in a new workplace tyranny and a massive intensification of work.
Hazards 123, July-September 2013
A new resilience industry is invading the workplace, with a mission to make feeble workers ‘man-up’ and shrug off the stresses and strains of work. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson says he isn’t impressed with an approach that wants workers to be more resilient rather than workplaces more healthy.
Hazards 123, July-September 2013
Most of us have seen someone reduced to tears by work stresses. But crying can be just the start of it. Some workers get so distressed they opt for suicide. And workplace stress is geting worse.
Hazards 101, January-March 2008
It's the thoroughly modern way to die at work. Top occupational diseases of the 21st century will be heart attacks, suicide and strokes. Hazards argues that none of us should be worked into the ground.
Special online briefing, Hazards, 5 August 2003
Get a life!
Yeah, you've dealt with the chemicals, you are waist deep in risks assessments and the health and safety committee is tackling everything from soft loo roll to hard hats. And you still feel like a zombie. The Hazards factsheet says it is time to use our unions to get a life...
Hazards 78 Get a life! factsheet [PDF]
Britain: Work stress is a ‘critical’ issue for business
A top stress expert has told a union conference that workplace stress is a ‘critical business issue’ that must be addressed. Professor Cary Cooper, in a presentation to more than 100 Prospect health and safety representatives, said: “Socially unskilled managers have been shown to be a key issue affecting well-being at work.”
Prospect news release and conference papers. Risks 795. 8 April 2017
Britain: Cuts forcing social workers to ‘brink of burnout’
Social workers are struggling with heavy caseloads, longer working hours and going without lunch breaks, according to a survey by UNISON and Community Care magazine. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said the volume of cases they were responsible for left them feeling ‘over the limit,’ and more than half (56 per cent) blamed staff shortages for their heavy workload.
UNISON news release and A Day in The Life of Social Work report. Risks 794. 1 April 2017
Britain: Stop blaming worker for work stress
Employers should concentrate on removing causes of stress at work rather than blaming their staff for getting stress out, the TUC has said. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson was commenting after an HSE stress summit in London
TUC Stronger Unions blog and stress webpages. HSE stress webpages.
Tackling workplace stress using the HSE Stress Management Standards, TUC and HSE guidance for health and safety representatives, January 2017. Risks 793. 25 March 2017
Britain: Suicide is a workplace issue
The UK is turning a blind eye to a major workplace killer, work-related suicide, the TUC has warned. The union body points to a series of reports this week highlighting how work factors can put large sections of the workforce at a greatly increased suicide risk, but there the problem is off the radar of the safety regulator.
TUC Stronger Unions blog. TUC guidebook on mental health in the workplace (registration required).
Sarah Waters. Suicidal work: Work-related suicides go uncounted and unaccounted for in the UK, Hazards magazine, number 137, 2017. Hazards quick guide to work-related factors linked to suicide.
Suicide by Occupation 2011-2015, Office for National Statistics, March 2017.
Dying from inequality, Samaritans, March 2017. Reducing the risk of suicide: A toolkit for employers, Samaritans/Business in the Community, March 2017. Crisis management in the event of a suicide: A postvention toolkit for employers, Samaritans/Business in the Community, March 2017. Risks 793. 25 March 2017
Britain: Thousands of stressed London transport staff receive counselling
Almost 6,000 Transport for London (TfL) staff have received counselling for issues including stress, anxiety and the trauma of witnessing of suicide attempts since 2010, it has been revealed. Finn Brennan, from the rail union ASLEF: “Tube drivers spend eight hours a day working in a small metal box deep underground while coping with the pressure of a demanding job.. it's not surprising that some suffer from stress or depression occasionally.”
City A.M. Evening Standard. Risks 792. 18 March 2017
Britain: Campaign can’t gloss over health service stress
The glossy launch of Healthcare Science Week by NHS Employers masks a world of overwork, stress, plummeting morale and staff shortages in the NHS, Unite has warned. The union said its survey of healthcare science members paints a picture of a dedicated workforce ‘bending to breaking point’ under the weight of the NHS financial crisis.
Unite news release. Healthcare Science Week. Risks 792. 18 March 2017
Britain: Workers ‘stressed out’ in London Fire Brigade control room
The workers who handle the London Fire Brigade’s 999 calls are dangerously stressed by a failing control system, their union GMB has warned. The union says workers operating the clunky Vision command and control system used for call line identification and caller location identification have found it is impeding their efforts to respond quickly to emergency calls.
GMB news release. Risks 790. 4 March 2017
Britain: Teachers say stop talking, start acting on workload
Teaching staff already know they are overworked and want the government to get on and do something about it, their unions have said. The education unions were commenting after the long-overdue findings of the Department for Education’s Teachers' Working Time Survey – finally published on the TUC’s Work Your Proper Hours Day - revealed teachers in England are working on average 54.4 hours per week, with 93 per cent of teachers saying workload is a fairly or very serious problem.
NUT news release. NASUWT news release. ATL news release.
Teachers workload survey 2016 and DfE webpages on reducing teacher workload and action plan. Risks 790. 4 March 2017
Britain: Probation union takes on workload pressures
Escalating workload pressures and the unreasonable expectations placed on workers in the probation service are being ‘confronted’ by the union Napo in a ‘3C’s’ campaign that also ‘challenges’ employers and ‘champions’ professional standards. The union notes: “Staff regularly report feeling under pressure to cut corners, meet unrealistic targets and report that they feel they are failing service users and ultimately the public, in achieving their objectives.”
NAPO news release. Risks 789. 23 February 2017
Japan: Union chief blasts mooted 100-hour overtime limit
Management and union negotiators in Japan are locking horns over how much overtime employees should be allowed to work during busy periods, as the government mulls a ceiling of 100 hours per month. After attending a meeting of the government’s Council for the Realization of Work Style Reform, union leader Rikio Kozu dismissed the 100-hour limit floated as “totally impossible.”
Japan Times. Nikkei Asian Review. Risks 787. 11 February 2017
Britain: NHS workers quitting over low pay and stress
Staff shortages in the NHS have shot up by 6,000 in 18 months, reflecting staff dissatisfaction with their working conditions, the union GMB has said. The Department for Health’s information service NHS Digital reported the number of unfilled posts increased by a quarter from 23,427 in February 2015 to 29,309 in September 2016 — the latest month for which figures are available.
GMB news release. Morning Star. Risk 786. 4 February 2017
Britain: Stress-inducing MPs need management training
Management training for MPs would help eradicate the widespread stress and bullying reported by their parliamentary staff, the union Unite has said. Unite said an underlying problem is that many MPs have no experience of managing their own employees before they are elected to the House of Commons.
Unite news release. Risk 786. 4 February 2017
Britain: New plan to help union reps banish work stress
A new TUC-backed guide us set to help trade union health and safety representatives tackle workplace stress. The resource, produced jointly with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is designed to help union representatives work with employers to find practical solutions to work-related stress.
TUC news release. Tackling workplace stress using the HSE Stress Management Standards, TUC and HSE guidance for health and safety representatives, January 2017. Risks 785. 28 January 2017
Britain: School support staff are exhausted and stressed
Support staff in Scotland's schools are feeling exhausted, undervalued and stressed, according to their union. Announcing the findings of what it said was probably the ‘largest ever’ survey of school support staff, UNISON said its survey confirms the enormous stress this puts on support staff, with 40 per cent carrying out unpaid work because of high workloads, 80 per cent saying workloads have increased and 60 per cent saying morale is ‘low’.
UNISON Scotland news release and report Hard Lessons: UNISON survey of school support staff Jan 2017. BBC News Online. Risks 784. 21 January 2017
Britain: Physios set out to pinpoint the pressure
A new workplace campaign by the physiotherapists’ union CSP is aiming ‘to tackle growing and unreasonable workloads’. Launching the new ‘Pinpoint the pressure’ campaign, the union says rather than struggling alone, “we want to get you thinking about what you can do to support each other – and to help find improvements that could alleviate these problems.”
CSP Frontlines article and Pinpoint the pressure resource pack, action plan, message to managers and campaign webpage Risks 784. 21 January 2017
Britain: Incentive pay schemes make workers sick
Incentive-related pay schemes can stress rather than motivate employees, according to new research. The study by academics from the universities of East Anglia and Sheffield explored the relationship between three types of ‘contingent pay’ – performance-related, profit-related, and employee share-ownership – and positive employee attitudes such as job satisfaction, employee commitment and trust in management.
UEA news release. Chidiebere Ogbonnaya, Kevin Daniels and Karina Nielsen. Does contingent pay encourage positive employee attitudes and intensify work?, Human Resource Management Journal. Risks 783. 14 January 2017
Britain: Exhaust exposure caused post traumatic stress
An ambulance worker who developed a psychiatric condition after she was poisoned by carbon monoxide from a faulty vehicle exhaust has been awarded £280,000 in damages by the High Court. Solo responder Diane Kennedy developed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) aster an undetected fault on her vehicle's exhaust system caused harmful fumes to leak into the driver’s compartment.
BBC News Online. The Mirror. Risks 781. 17 December 2016.
Britain: Patients suffer as doctors face excessive stress
Gaps in rotas, poor access to basic facilities and an ever-growing workload means junior doctors are experiencing high levels of stress in their roles – with 80 per cent reporting that their job ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ causes them excessive stress. A new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) presents a bleak picture of the conditions junior doctors currently face and the impact this is having on patients.
RCP news release and report, Being a junior doctor. Experiences from the front line of the NHS, December 2016. Risks 779. 3 December 2016
Britain: Union concern at ‘shocking’ public sector pressures
A new survey showing high levels of pressure and exhaustion among public sector workers exposes the impact of swingeing job cuts, the union GMB has said. The union said the findings of the CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook survey show “unacceptable” levels of stress afflicting workers in the sector.
CIPD news release and full report. GMB news release. Risks 779. 3 December 2016
Global: Unions condemn ‘unbelievable abuse’ by Clarkson
British TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson has been condemned for his ‘unbelievable abuse’ of an airport worker prior to a flight from Germany to the UK. Some observers have hinted that Clarkson concocted the story to gain publicity for his new TV show, which was launched later that week, with the Guardian noting: “The controversy happens to coincide with the debut of The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime on Friday.”
ITF news release. The Guardian and related story. BBC News Online. The Sun. Risks 778. 26 November 2016
Britain: Workplace stress drives cardiovascular disease
Economic globalisation may create stressful employment conditions in high-income countries, contributing to the worldwide epidemic of cardiovascular disease (CVD), a study has found. Peter Schnall and Marnie Dobson from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and Paul Landsbergis from the State University of New York (SUNY) say their study pulls together a robust body of evidence documenting the effect of the work environment, including psychosocial job stressors.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center news release. Peter Schnall, Marnie Dobson and Paul Landsbergis. Globalization, work and cardiovascular disease, International Journal of Health Services, volume 46, number 4, pages 656-692, October 2016. Risks 773. 22 October 2016
Britain: ‘Crushing workloads’ drive women out of teaching
Most women teachers report suffering mental and physical health problems caused by overwork, teaching union NASUWT has warned. The union said ‘crushing workloads’, gender inequality and attacks on their pay and working conditions are threatening to drive women out of the profession.
NASUWT news release. Morning Star. Risks 773. 22 October 2016.
Britain: Work stress at record levels, say safety reps
Stress is the top health and safety concern in UK workplaces according to a TUC study. Findings published by the TUC on 10 October - World Mental Health Day – indicate stress was at the top of the list in this year’s survey, with 7 in 10 reps (70 per cent) citing it as a problem – up 3 per cent since the last survey in 2014 when 67 per cent did so, and a higher proportion than in any previous TUC study.
TUC news release and full survey results. Morning Star. Risks 772. 15 October 2016
Australia: Families plead for action on fly-in-fly-out deaths
Pressure on West Australia’s state government to take the mental health dangers to the army of fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) miners has escalated as family members of two workers who took their own lives presented a 4,800-signature petition demanding action. The union AMWU supported Sharon Johnson and Peter Miller when they went to the West Australia (WA) parliament to hand the petition to MP Graham Jacobs, who led the parliamentary inquiry into FIFO mental health that reported more than a year ago and that was prompted by a spate of suicides.
AMWU news release. Yahoo 7 News. Risks 768. 17 September 2016.
Britain: Union challenges ministers over workload action
Government changes to the system of pupil assessment in England will drive up teachers' workload still further, making a ‘mockery’ of ministers’ claims to be taking action to address teacher well-being, NASUWT has said. Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “This is yet another example of the gulf between the Westminster government’s rhetoric which claims to be committed to tackling teacher workload, and the reality of its policies which are having the opposite impact by piling ever greater workload pressures onto an already exhausted and overburdened teaching workforce.”
NASUWT news release. Risks 766. 3 September 2016.
USA: Firefighters run high traumatic stress and cancer risks
US firefighters are more at risk for cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the general population, according to union research. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) report points to research by the Warrior Research Institute in Austin, Texas, that president Harold Schaitberger said in a statement. “New advanced protocols are needed to help prevent PTSD and cancer from taking hold, and more elected officials need to step up and support laws that help firefighters afflicted with these hidden hazards.”
IAFF news release and cancer awareness and prevention resource. Omaha World-Herald. Risks 765. 27 August 2016.
Britain: Stressed-out journalists issue strike warning
Journalists on Newsquest titles in London are balloting for industrial action over inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads, health and safety concerns, reduced quality of newspapers and poor pay. A union stress survey earlier this year covering staff in south London showed many were suffering from high workloads, job insecurity and struggling with a new production system and poor communication from the company’s senior management.
NUJ news release. Morning Star. Risks 765. 27 August 2016.
Britain: Be mindful it’s not the answer to bad jobs
Practicing mindfulness meditation on a regular basis will not make you any more likely to eat healthily, exercise or quit smoking, new research has indicated. Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Gothenburg found that despite being seen as one of the ultimate ways to relax and being promoted as a work-stress busting solution, regular mindfulness courses do not help humans unwind any more than sitting in front of the TV.
Yonas Alem and others. Mind, behaviour and health: A randomised experiment, Social Science Research Network, IZA Discussion Paper No. 10019, July 2016. HSE stress management standards. Mindfulness at work. Daily Mail. Risks 764. 20 August 2016
Britain: Study finds sedentary work is deadly
Desk-bound workers who do low amounts of exercise face a greatly elevated risk of an early death, a new study has found. A team of international experts found sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60 per cent.
Ulf Ekelund and others. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women, The Lancet, published online 27 July, 2016. The Lancet physical activity series.
The Guardian and accompanying article. Sydney Morning Herald.
Workplace well-being programmes: A guide for safety reps, TUC, December 2015.
Hard to swallow: TUC warns that firms and government have an unhealthy preoccupation with your lifestyle, Hazards, number 133, December 2015. Risks 762. 6 August 2016
Britain: Safety body calls for anti-slavery 'race to the top'
The UK government has the opportunity to lead a ‘race to the top’ in tackling modern slavery, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has said. The safety body was commenting as the prime minister Theresa May marked the first anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 with the announcement of a new UK cabinet taskforce to tackle the “sickening and inhuman crimes.”
IOSH news release. PM Theresa May news release and Sunday Telegraph article. Risks 762. 6 August 2016
Britain: MoD scraps ‘despised’ performance management system
The Ministry of Defence has agreed to end the use of a performance management system that civil service union PCS says is ‘despised’ by staff. New permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove has made an agreement with the Cabinet Office to end performance management reviews in the department, including forced rankings where employees are individually ranked best to worst.
PCS news release. Tell your MP to back the PCS campaign for a fair management system. Risks 760. 23 July 2016
Britain: Union acts on firefighter mental health concerns
Firefighters’ union FBU is taking action to protect the mental health of its members after a report warned that shockingly high numbers had contemplated suicide. Mental health charity Mind reported this year that 30 per cent of firefighters have contemplated taking their own lives.
FBU news release and guide, Mental health in the workplace – an initial guide for reps. Risks 760. 23 July 2016
Britain: Scotland’s college staff near stress breaking point
A UNISON Scotland survey has revealed more than four out of five college support workers have experienced stress at work, with one in five becoming so sick they were unable to work. Support staff from 17 colleges participated in the survey which revealed ‘shocking’ levels of stress and bullying in Scotland’s colleges, the union said.
UNISON Scotland news release and report, Learning the hard way. Risks 759. 16 July 2016.
Britain: Cuts leave council staff at breaking point
Local government workers are experiencing unprecedented pressure and stress in the workplace – and government cuts are to blame, the union UNISON has found. Its report – ‘Under pressure, underfunded and undervalued’ - is based on a survey of more than 2,000 local authority staff, including teaching assistants, social workers, librarians and carers who look after people in their own homes.
UNISON news release. Morning Star. Risks 757. 2 July 2016
Britain: Stressed union activists need support
Public service union UNISON is to explore ways of supporting activists and reps in stressful situations, after concerns were raised by delegates to its national conference. The conference agreed that the UNISON executive should investigate the possibility of a telephone support service for activists, and should provide training and produce a handbook for activists on how to deal with stressful situations and how they can support branch colleagues.
UNISON news release. Risks 757. 2 July 2016
Britain: Teaching union to start workload strikes
Teaching union NUT says its members in England are to strike over an erosion of working conditions and spiralling workload. Teachers will walk out first on 5 July, after 91 per cent of those who voted backed the action.
NUT news release and related release. BBC News Online. Risks 757. 2 July 2016
Britain: Scots secondary teachers vote to take industrial action
Secondary teachers in Scotland are set to take industrial action over their ‘excessive’ workload. Members of the teaching union EIS voted overwhelmingly for a work to rule.
EIS news release. BBC News Online. Risks 756. 25 June 2016
Britain: Vets face ‘bleak future’ as stress hits numbers
Stress and long working hours are causing a retention problem in the veterinary profession, their union has warned. The British Veterinary Union (BVU), a part of the union Unite, says nearly 10 per cent of young vets are planning to leave the job as soon as possible.
Unite news release. BVU website. Morning Star. Risks 755. 18 June 2016
Britain: Stressed-out midwives voice safety concerns
Midwife burn-out is leading to safety fears, according to a survey by the midwives’ union RCM. The union said over half (52 per cent) of midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) who responded to its survey ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ with the statement: ‘I am worried about making a mistake at work because I am exhausted.’
RCM news release. Risks 754. 11 June 2016.
Britain: Soaring site stress and mental illness
Mental health problems linked to the job is blighting the construction sector, a UCATT survey has found. The union found 64 per cent of members responding to the survey said they are suffering from stress and a ‘huge’ 76 per cent said they had at some point suffered stress at work.
UCATT news release. Risks 751. 21 May 2016
Britain: Work stress conference, 19-20 November, Birmingham
The UK Work Stress Network’s 2016 conference will place from Saturday 19 November to Sunday 20 November in Rednal, Birmingham. This year’s theme is ‘Mental health in the workplace – tackling work stress in a changing working environment.’
UK Work Stress Network: Conference details and booking form. Book and pay in full before September and you’ll qualify for a 10 per cent early bird discount. Risks 750. 14 May 2016
Britain: Low wages are an occupational health hazard
Low wages should be recognised as a genuine occupational health threat, US researchers have concluded. “Workers earning low wages may be at greater risk for disease and injury than workers earning high wages,” note J Paul Leigh and Roberto De Vogli of the University of California Davis School of Medicine in an editorial in the May edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, adding that low wages should be considered among the psychosocial factors - such as long work hours and high job strain - identified as occupational risks to health.
J Paul Leigh and Roberto De Vogli. Editorial: Low wages as occupational health hazards, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 58, issue 5, pages 444–447, May 2016. Science Daily. Low blow: Low paid work comes with high work risks, Hazards, October-December 2014. Risks 750. 14 May 2016
Japan: Bus driver’s suicide was work-related
The Nagoya High Court in Japan has overturned a lower court decision and recognised the suicide of a Nagoya City bus driver as work-related, caused by heavy workloads and “power harassment”. The court ruled Yamada Akira, who was 37 at the time of his death, suffered from a nervous breakdown due to verbal abuse from a manager and lengthy police interviews around the same time regarding a minor accident over which the manager made him turn himself into the police.
Japan Press. More on work-related suicide. Risks 749. 7 May 2016
Britain: Performance management is ‘divisive and unfair’
The performance management system used across the civil service is ‘divisive, unfair and demotivating’, an extensive survey by the union PCS has revealed. The system, which has been linked to high levels of workplace stress, burnout and ill-health, ranks workers and puts a fixed percentage of lower ranked staff on a path to performance-related dismissal.
PCS news release and performance management guidance. CWU news release. Risks 749. 7 May 2016
Britain: Soaring stress levels sickening DWP staff
More sick days are lost to depression and anxiety than any other illness at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), new figures show, with civil service union PCS saying it highlights the pressure on staff forced to implement “cruel policies”. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka linked the evidence of high pressure on DWP staff to government policies. The Independent. Risks 749. 7 May 2016
Britain: Warning on exodus of stressed school support staff
More than half (52 per cent) of school support staff across the UK have experienced stress, anxiety or depression as they struggle to cope with their workloads, according to a new survey by UNISON. Over two-fifths (41.5 per cent) of those who took part in the survey said they had difficulty in completing their work, and more than one in eight (13.4 per cent) said they found it impossible to manage all that was being asked of them.
UNISON news release and survey findings. Risks 749. 7 May 2016
Britain: Better pay can fix mental health problems
A new study has found that low-paid workers who received the national minimum wage in April 1999 reported a decline in symptoms of depression for at least 22 months afterwards. The researchers discovered that receiving the national minimum wage was equivalent to the effect of taking antidepressants.
University of Oxford news release. Aaron Reeves, Martin McKee, Johan Mackenbach, Margaret Whitehead and David Stuckler. Introduction of a national minimum wage reduced depressive symptoms in low-wage workers: a quasi-natural experiment in the UK, Health Economics, published online ahead of print, April 2016. Risks 747. 23 April 2016
Britain: Teachers warn of action over excessive workload
Teachers are threatening strike action in their campaign against excessive workload.
The National Union of Teachers' annual conference called for “sustained strike action” to back schools challenging a long hours culture.
NUT news release. BBC News Online. Risks 745. 9 April 2016
Britain: Workload is behind the teaching crisis
Workload is the key driver of the teacher shortage crisis, putting people off becoming teachers and compelling enthusiastic teachers to leave, according to a new survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). The union’s survey last month of 876 education staff asked what they thought might stop people from wanting to become teachers; 93 per cent cited workload and 91 per cent said poor work/life balance.
ATL news release. Morning Star. Risks 745. 9 April 2016
Canada: Union praises first responder trauma law
A union has welcomed a new law in Ontario, Canada, recognising post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in emergency first responders. The legislation includes a presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related, leading to faster access to resources and treatment.
OPSEU news release. Risks 740. 27 February 2016
Britain: Mental health plan at risk from service ‘salami slicing’ A record of ‘short-termism’ and ‘salami slicing’ by government ministers could undermine a new blueprint to get more people suffering mental health problems back to work, Unite has said. The union was speaking out after the prime minister launched ‘The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health’, a report by the independent taskforce on mental health.
Prime Minister’s Office news release. Unite news release. BBC News Online. Risks 739. 20 February 2016.
Britain: Bullying widespread in the police service
Around half of all police staff surveyed by the union UNISON said they had been bullied, with female staff significantly more likely to have been targeted. More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of female police staff told the union that bullying is a problem at work, and almost threequarters (72 per cent) reported they were not confident that their force will deal fairly with any complaints of bullying.
UNISON news release. Risks 739. 20 February 2016.
Britain: Public sector workers sleep-deprived, says study
Gruelling working hours across the public sector are leaving workers sleep deprived, with many only managing six hours sleep per night, a study has found. Research led by the University of Leeds and commissioned and funded by bed firm Silentnight found nearly a third of Britons suffered from sleepless nights as a result of long work hours and job-related pressure and stress.
Leeds University news release. TUC news release. Risks 738. 13 February 2016.
Global: New guide to tackle bullying at sea
New guidance to combat bullying and harassment at sea has been developed by the industry body the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the global union the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). As well as providing advice on company policies on reporting, complaints and grievance procedures, the guidance addresses the responsibilities of seafarers and their employers to use these procedures appropriately and for being aware of any harassment or bullying that might occur within the maritime workplace.
ICS/ITF Guidance on Eliminating Shipboard Harassment and Bullying. Nautilus publication alert. Risks 736. 20 January 2016.
Canada: Firms alone can’t define work violence
A top Canadian court has ruled that employers cannot arbitrarily decide what constitutes workplace violence or rely on internal investigations when incidents occur. In a groundbreaking decision, the Federal Court of Appeal has supported a legal challenge brought on behalf of a member of the public service union PSAC, who had complained about the harassment and humiliation he suffered at the hands of his supervisor.
PSAC news release. Canadian Labour Reporter. Risks 732. 12 December 2015
Britain: ‘Box ticking exercise’ makes dismissal unfair
A Prospect member fired by BT under a performance management system following a serious operation has won an unfair dismissal claim. Trevor Edwards, who was a programme manager with almost 40 years’ service with BT, was dismissed in 2014, with an employment tribunal ruling concluded BT had “seemingly carried out a box ticking exercise with no regard to the practical realities of what they were doing.”
Prospect news release. Risks 732. 12 December 2015
Britain: Big workloads are ‘grinding down’ teachers
Four out of every five school staff say their workload is still unmanageable, one year on from the government's Workload Challenge, according to a survey from the teaching union ATL. The union research found 81 per cent of teachers and 85 per cent of ‘senior leaders’ in state schools in England reported their workload was unmanageable.
ATL news release. Risks 731. 5 December 2015
Japan: Firms must check mental health of staff
Businesses in Japan will be obliged from December to offer their employees an annual test to check their level of mental stress amid an increase in workers suffering from mental disorders, the health ministry has said. Under the Industrial Health and Safety Law’s revision last year, the test, in the form of a questionnaire, will target more than 20 million employees at around 16,000 businesses nationwide, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
Japan Today. Risks 730. 28 November 2015
Britain: Nearly a third of people are bullied at work
Nearly a third of people have been bullied at work, according to new research from the TUC. one in five (22 per cent) had to take time off work as a result of being bullied. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Anyone worried about bullying at work should join a union, to get their voice heard and their interests represented.”
TUC news release and guides, Bullying at work - Guidance for safety representatives and Bullied at work? Don't suffer in silence. Acas news release and discussion paper, Seeking better solutions: tackling bullying and ill-treatment in Britain's workplaces, November 2015. Risks 729. 21 November 2015
Britain: Working wounded face multiple pressures
High job demands, stress and job insecurity are among the main reasons why people go to work when they are ill, according to a new study by researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Concordia University in Canada. The study found one of the most significant causes of presenteeism is the severity of organisational policies used to monitor or reduce staff absence, such as strict trigger points for disciplinary action, job insecurity, limited paid sick leave, or few absence days allowed without a medical certificate. und to be key reasons why people might not take a day off.
UEA news release. Mariella Miraglia and Gary Johns. 'Going to work ill: a meta-analysis of the correlates of presenteeism and a dual-path model', Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, published online first, 9 November 2015. Risks 728. 14 November 2015
Britain: Unite calls for action on stress
Unite has called for its members to take action on stress. Making the action call on 4 November, National Stress Awareness Day, Unite national safety adviser Susan Murray said the union “is aware that many of our members are suffering as a result of bullying, job uncertainty, changes at work and the government cuts - all of which can have an adverse effect on mental health.”
Unite news release. Risks 727. 7 November 2015
Britain: Lab staff walk out over work pressures
Laboratory assistants at a Yorkshire hospital took strike action last week over “enormous” work pressures and rotas that are causing sickness rates to skyrocket. The action involved 18 members of the public service union UNISON who work at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, which is run by Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. UNISON Yorkshire and Humberside. Morning Star. Risks 725. 24 October 2015.
Britain: A worker is made ill by work stress every two minutes
Every two minutes, a worker somewhere in the UK is made ill through stress at work, the TUC has revealed. New TUC advice on managing stress at work highlights three key points: Stress is not a weakness or your fault; Don’t suffer in silence, but instead talk to someone like your union rep, a friend, your GP or a support service; and stress-related illnesses caused by work are preventable.
TUC news release and guide to coping with workplace stress. HSE stress statistics. ETUC news release. EU-OSHA healthy work/stress webpages. Risks 725. 24 October 2015.
Britain: Mental health problems widespread in shopworkers
Nearly one in four shopworkers has taken time off work because of worry, anxiety or depression, a survey by Usdaw has found. The retail union also discovered over half of those affected said that they didn’t feel able to be honest about the reason for their absence.
Usdaw news release. Risks 724. 17 October 2015.
Britain: Better to act together than be resilient alone
‘Workplace resilience’, an increasingly popular intervention in workplaces intended to help us withstand the pressures of work, was criticised two years ago by the TUC for treating the distressed worker and not the dysfunctional workplace as the problem. Now the approach is coming in for flak in Australia, with Andrew Thackrah and Susie Byers, nothing “individually-focused programmes can't overcome the structural realties and power imbalances that characterise the employment relationship.”
The Age. SafetyAtWork blog.
Hugh Robertson, TUC: Tough luck, Hazards, number 123, July-September 2013. Risks 723. 10 October 2015
Britain: Over half of teachers could quit within two years
More than half of teachers are considering leaving the profession in the next two years, a union poll has revealed. The joint NUT and YouGov survey found 53 per cent of teachers are looking to quit, mainly due to low morale and high workloads made worse by cuts in pay and the number of teachers and support staff.
NUT news release. DfE news release. Morning Star. Risks 723. 10 October 2015
Britain: Stress could force senior doctors out of the NHS
The NHS is facing an exodus of senior hospital doctors as new figures show that more than 80 per cent may retire early because work-related stress is causing them sleepless nights, marital breakups and illness such as ulcers, anxiety and even strokes. A union survey of NHS consultants has found that huge numbers are becoming burned out and having their lives damaged as a result of the escalating pressures at the service’s frontline, including rising demand, long hours and the need to meet targets.
HCSA news release. The Guardian. Risks 720. 19 September 2015
Britain: Scottish lecturers get new stress busting tool
A Scottish union has launched a new toolkit to help university lecturers combat work-related stress. The University Lecturers’ Association (ULA), part of the union EIS, is distributing the kit to members and university human resources departments.
EIS news release. Risks 720. 19 September 2015
Europe: European Health and Safety Week, 19-25 October
European Health and Safety Week will take place in the third week of October, running from Monday 19 October to Sunday 25 October. The theme is workplace stress for the second year running, with Wednesday 21 October the TUC National Inspection Day when all safety representatives are encouraged to inspect their workplace.
TUC European Health and Safety Week webpage and resources Risks 719. 12 September 2015
Global: New warning on deadly work stress
Job insecurity, long working hours and other common workplace stressors can all damage a person's health, raise the odds of them having an illness diagnosed by a doctor and even leading to an early death. A Harvard Business School and Stanford University study found that high job demands increased the odds of having an illness diagnosed by a doctor by 35 per cent, long work hours increased the chances of early death by almost 20 per cent and worry that you might soon lose your job increased the odds of having poor health by about 50 per cent.
Joel Goh, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Stefanos A Zenios, Workplace stressors and health outcomes: Health policy for the workplace, Behavioural Science and Policy, volume 1, number 1, September 2015. Daily Mail. CNN News. Boston.com. Risks 719. 12 September 2015
Japan: New law to require stress checks for workers
Japan’s government plans to introduce stress checks for its workers, as the number of staff on leave due to mental illness remains high. A report in the Japan Times says under the system, the National Personnel Authority plans to conduct a stress survey every year, based on provisions in the Industrial Safety and Health Act, which was revised last year.
Japan Times. Risks 714. 8 August 2015.
Britain: UNISON stresses joint working for Euro week
UNISON is encouraging employers and its union branches to work together to tackle work-related stress. The UNISON push follows the announcement that the theme for October’s European Health and Safety Week will again be stress and other psychosocial risks. The union says employers and branches should consider conducting a stress audit using the HSE stress management tool.
UNISON news release and Stress at work - a guide for UNISON safety reps.
Tackling workplace stress using the HSE stress management standards - TUC guidance for union health and safety reps. Risks 710. 11 July 2015
Europe: Stress and strains top work risks list
Stress and strains are the most widespread risks encountered in Europe’s workplaces, according to an EU-wide survey. The research found the key factors motivating firms to abide by their occupational health and safety management duties where complying with laws, meeting expectations of workers and their representatives and avoiding fines.
EU-OSHA news release and summary of the ESENER 2 findings. ETUI news release. Risks 709. 4 July 2015
Britain: Midwife suffered two work stress breakdowns
A former senior midwife suffered two breakdowns caused by stress at work. Royal College of Midwives (RCM) member Angela Jommo, 58, who worked for South London Healthcare NHS Trust, lost her job and felt forced into taking early retirement at the age of 55.
Thompsons Solicitors news release. Risks 708. 27 June 2015
Britain: Stressed social workers face courts trauma
Heavy workloads are leaving more than nine in ten (90 per cent) social workers stressed and without enough time to prepare for court cases involving vulnerable children and families, according to a new report from UNISON. Half the social workers questioned (49 per cent) admitted they were not confident when appearing before a judge, with most concerned about the consequences of having their identity revealed in court.
UNISON news release. Risks 708. 27 June 2015
Britain: BBC Scotland faces bullying action
Workers at BBC Scotland are considering industrial action in a dispute over the handling of grievance and bullying allegations against one of its most senior executives. BBC Scotland’s then head of news and current affairs, John Boothman, was taped in February by camerawoman Zoe MacDonald as he made a series of highly personal and critical remarks about her in a private conversation with a personnel manager.
The Guardian. Risks 707. 20 June 2015
Britain: Depressed workers need more help
People with depression need more support to stay in and to return to work, a new report has concluded. The paper from Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, ‘Symptoms of depression and their effects on employment’, considers the ways in which some of the symptoms associated with depression can affect an individual’s ability to remain in or to find work.
The Work Foundation news release and report, Symptoms of depression and their effects on employment. TUC report, Good practice in workplace mental health. Risks 704. 30 May 2015
Britain: College staff worn out by work
Working in further education has become increasingly stressful over the past six years with staff worn down by constant change, says a report for the union UCU has concluded. ‘Taking its toll: rising stress levels in further education’ used the Health and Safety Executive’s stress management indicators and found the proportion of staff who agreed or strongly agreed with the statement 'I find my job stressful' rose to 87 per cent in 2014, up from 78 per cent in 2012 and 74 per cent in 2008.
UCU news release. Risks 704. 30 May 2015
Britain: Stress blame is stressing us out
A stigma-busting, stress-tackling campaign by the union Prospect is aiming to encourage union reps to seek out preventive measures to tackle the top workplace health problem. Prospect safety specialist Sarah Page is highlighting the union’s initiative after research published by AXA PPP Healthcare in April found two-thirds of managers don’t believe stress, anxiety or depression warrant sick leave.
Prospect health and safety blog, ‘Stress, Stigma, Solutions’ campaign and good work webpages. AXA PPP Healthcare news release. Risks 704. 30 May 2015
Britain: Most paramedics are stressed out
Long hours, staff shortages and the mental demands of the job are placing an enormous burden on ambulance workers, with nine in ten (91 per cent) saying they are suffering with stress, according to new UNISON research. The survey of 2,977 ambulance workers found that threequarters (74 per cent) are suffering with sleep problems, 72 per cent said they felt irritable as a result and experienced mood swings, and more than half (56 per cent) suffer with anxiety.
UNISON news release. Morning Star. Risks 698. 18 April 2015
Britain: High tech stress and abuse faces teachers
Computers are being used to load out-of-hours work on teachers and to abuse them, surveys by the union NASUWT have found. Nearly 60 per cent of teachers responding to an NASUWT annual survey reported having had adverse comments posted about them on social media sites by pupils and parents, compared to 21 per cent in 2014.
NASUWT news releases on social media abuse and home invasion • Risks 697 • 11 April 2015
Britain: Resolving mental health issues at work
Workers have been experiencing a significant increase in stress, which in some cases has led to mental health problems, as a result of the impact of austerity on their work and home lives, a new TUC report has concluded. ‘Good practice in workplace mental health’ says although there is greater public awareness of mental health, the number of workers affected by mental health issues is ‘enormous’.
TUC news release and report, Good practice in workplace mental health. USI live • Risks 697 • 11 April 2015
Britain: Unions make a difference on mental health at work
The prevalence of mental health problems among Britain’s workers is as bad as ever, and is being exacerbated by reductions in the funding of mental health services, the TUC has warned. But he said there is some good news, and that comes in the form of trade union initiatives to prevent work-related mental health problems or to support affected workers in their jobs.
TUC Touchstone blog and report, Good practice in workplace mental health, TUC, March 2015. Risks 696. 28 March 2015
Britain: Austerity measures create ‘unsustainable stress’
Cuts to local authority budgets are having a profound effect on the services people receive and are leaving the staff delivering them facing “unsustainable stress”, a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found. The report also noted “frontline staff within local authorities are working very hard to cushion service-users from the worst impacts of the cuts, principally by taking on expanded workloads,” adding: “The level of stress this entails does not appear sustainable in the longer term and in many areas staff report feeling overwhelmed by the scale and nature of the problems they are dealing with.”
JRF publication alert. The cost of the cuts: the impact on local government and poorer communities, JRF, March 2015, summary and full report. STUC news release. Risks 695. 21 March 2015
Britain: Nine in ten emergency staff are suffering stress
Britain’s frontline medics, police and firefighters are struggling with mental health problems but are too scared to ask for help, according to a Mind survey. The mental health charity found that almost nine out of ten (87 per cent) emergency services personnel polled admitted to stress, low mood and poor mental health.
Mind news release and Blue Light programme. FBU news release. The Mirror. Nursing Times. Risks 694. 14 March 2015.
Britain: Scottish mental health staff feel the pressure
Scotland’s over-stretched mental health staff are suffering from stress as they feel unable to deliver the service their patients deserve, a UNISON survey has found. The union said 84 per cent of respondents reported their workload had increased, and 76 per cent said cuts had affected the quality of patient care.
UNISON Scotland news release and full report, See us - mental health staff survey. Risks 694. 14 March 2015.
Britain: Union survey of stressed out Telegraph staff
Editorial staff at the Telegraph are being asked by their union about workload, work pressures and the effect cost-cutting changes at the paper have had on the quality of news. The NUJ said it was acting on concerns arising after a “brutal” spate of redundancies.
NUJ news release. Risks 692. 28 February 2015
Britain: TUC puts responsibility back on employers
A poll conducted for the British Heart Foundation has shown that millions of workers feel their job is having a negative impact on their health. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “the answer is not just for employers to encourage their staff to change their lifestyle, it is for employers to improve working conditions, provide secure jobs and treat their workers like human beings rather than machines.”
CIPD news report. Risks 691. 21 February 2015
Britain: BBC and unions agree bullying policy
Extensive discussions between the BBC and unions within the Federation of Entertainment Unions over a new policy to address complaints from staff and freelancers over bullying and harassment have led to an agreement.
GMB news release. Risks 690. 14 February 2015
Britain: Fail grade for ‘insufficient’ plans on teacher workload
Government plans to reduce “unnecessary and unproductive” teacher workload at schools in England will not have the required impact, teaching unions have said. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and education secretary Nicky Morgan said a series of “decisive measures” to be introduced in England would include an end to major government reforms being introduced during the academic year, with schools also given notice of major changes.
DfE news release. Government response to the Workload Challenge, DfE, February 2015. NUT news release. NASUWT news release. ATL news release.
BBC News Online. Risks 690. 14 February 2015
Britain: Mental health the top work-related health problem
New research shows that throughout the British Isles, mental health disorders are the most common work-related ill health problem. A team from Manchester University found mental health problems linked to work account for over half of all cases reported by occupational physicians.
SOM news release. A Money and others. Work-related ill-health: Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain 2005-2012, Occupational Medicine, volume 65, pages 15-21, 13 January 2015.
Promoting good practice in workplace mental health: A seminar for union officers, workplace representatives and activists, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. 5 February 2015, 9.00-13.00. Register for the TUC mental health good practice seminar. Risks 686. 17 January 2015
Britain: Watchdog and firms doing ‘sod all’ of use on stress
Workplace stress causes heart and other chronic diseases, higher rates of sickness absence and suicides. So why, asks TUC’s Hugh Robertson, are the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and employers doing ‘sod all’ of any use to tackle the bad management practices at the root of the problem?
Distressing failure: Who says work has to be like this?, Hazards magazine special report, December 2014. TUC Safety Reps Guide to the HSE Stress Management Standards. Risks 685. 10 January 2015
Japan: Unions aim to head off overwork deaths
Workers in Japan have been offered union-run counselling in a bid to reduce the deadly impact of excessive workloads. The trade union confederation Rengo said the two days of telephone counselling was intended to reduce the chances of a worker falling victim to “karoshi,” or death from overwork.
Japan Times • More on deaths from overwork • ILO karoshi case study • Risks 684 • 13 December 2014
Britain: School support staff are really struggling
A survey of more than 15,000 school support staff from the across the UK has found a demoralised workforce that harbours serious concerns for their ability to adequately support students, unless crucial issues such as workload, job security, overtime and pay are addressed. The survey by UNISON, which represents more than 250,000 school support staff, revealed 80 per cent are concerned about workload, with 81 per cent admitting the only way they can keep on top of their work is by doing unpaid overtime and working out of hours.
UNISON news release • Risks 683 • 6 December 2014
Britain: Stressed prison staff are ‘totally demoralised’
Prison employers are failing to meet any of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stress management benchmarks, an independent study for the prisons officers’ union POA has found. Researchers from the University of Bedfordshire examined the work-related stress and wellbeing of prison officers and of nurses in psychiatric secure hospitals.
POA news release • Risks 682 • 29 November 2014
Britain: Performance management is a bad business
Performance management, a worker assessment system that pits workers against each other and is linked to a massive intensification of work, is also a very bad idea for business, the union Prospect has said. Studies have shown the approach, which has been abandoned by some blue chip companies, to cause high levels of workplace stress, burnout and ill-health.
Prospect safety blog, Good Work campaign, stress resources and advice on performance management • The Guardian • Risks 681 • 22 November 2014
Britain: Survey of journalists finds dangerous stress
Journalists working for the newspaper giant Johnston Press (JP) are suffering dangerously high levels of stress, journalists’ union NUJ has found. A health and safety survey across JP’s titles revealed 82 per cent were subject to unrealistic time pressure, with 44 per cent saying this was cases often or always.
NUJ news release • Risks 681 • 22 November 2014
Britain: Bad changes are bad for your health
A new guide on stress for NHS workers, produced by the NHS Staff Council, has linked the “unprecedented levels of change” the NHS has undergone in recent years to cases of stress and bullying. Health service union UNISON said the report also drew attention to the risks of redundancy, down-banding and privatisation of NHS services as stress factors.
UNISON news release, and guide: Stress at Work, a guide for UNISON safety reps. NHS staff council: Guidance on prevention and management of stress at work • Risks 679 • 8 November 2014
France: Shift work is bad for your brain
Working an irregular shift pattern may be causing long-term damage to people’s memory and mental abilities, new research has shown. The study suggested a decade of shifts aged the brain by more than six years.
Jean-Claude Marquié and others. Chronic effects of shift work on cognition: findings from the VISAT longitudinal study, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published First Online 3 November 2014. doi:10.1136/oemed-2013-101993 [abstract] • BBC News Online • The Independent • Risks 679 • 8 November 2014
Britain: Going to work is more stressful than ever
Britons find their jobs more stressful, precarious and demanding than ever before, according to an extensive poll of experiences of the workplace conducted for the TUC. Two-thirds of employed people say that the amount of work they are expected to do has grown over the past few years, and more than a third are expected to do unpaid overtime, YouGov found.
Independent on Sunday • Risks 679 • 8 November 2014
Britain: Union reps say stress is the UK’s top concern
Stress tops the workplace concerns of union health and safety reps, the TUC’s 11th biennial TUC survey has found. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s shocking that so many employers are breaking the law and putting their staff at risk of illness and accidents by their sheer negligence.”
TUC news release and full report, Focus on health and safety: Trade union trends survey, October 2014 • Risks 678 • 1 November 2014
Britain: Cuts are making civil servants sick
Cuts to jobs and increasing workloads are leading to more stress and ill-health in the civil service, according to new surveys for PCS. Two surveys carried out for the union by employment analysts and academics have revealed high levels of stress, longer working hours, and fewer opportunities to achieve a work-life balance.
PCS news release • Morning Star • Risks 678 • 1 November 2014
Britain: Study highlights spiralling lecturer stress
Scotland’s university lecturers are facing heavy workload pressures and high levels of work-related stress caused by university management practices. The findings, based partly on a survey carried out by the union EIS, indicate that teaching staff in the university sector have lower levels of wellbeing and satisfaction compared to overall scores of those working across all sectors of education.
EIS news release • Risks 677 • 25 October 2014
Britain: Stressed out, overworked and underpaid
UNISON members are being expected to do more work with fewer staff for less pay, the union's national health and safety committee has warned. Meeting as this year's European Health and Safety Week kicked off on 20 October, the public sector union’s safety committee indicated this oppressive combination was the motivation behind its ‘Cut stress, not jobs’ campaign.
UNISON news release and guide, Stress at work, a guide for UNISON safety reps • EU-OSHA news release • Risks 677 • 25 October 2014
Britain: Stress is the UK’s top concern, say reps
Stress is the top concern in UK workplaces, findings of a TUC survey of union safety reps has found. The trailed results from the 11th biennial survey, to be published in full in November, reveal two-thirds of safety reps (67 per cent) say stress, and the effect it is having on their colleagues, is one of the main concerns they have to deal with at work.
TUC news release • Risks 676 • 18 October 2014
Europe: Stress remains a major problem at work
A quarter of workers in Europe report feeling stressed at work all or most of the time, and a similar proportion say that work affects their health negatively, a new report has revealed. ‘Psychosocial risks in Europe: Prevalence and strategies for prevention’ found fewer people report working long hours but say at the same time job insecurity has increased across Europe, and in some countries work intensity has risen in companies struggling in the economic crisis.
EU-OSHA news release and Psychosocial risks in Europe: Prevalence and strategies for prevention, full report and executive summary • Eurofound news release • Risks 676 • 18 October 2014
Britain: Why NHS staff need to take a break
Health service union UNISON is urging NHS staff in England to take their breaks and ambulance staff to not work unpaid overtime. Commenting as NHS and other staff embarked on industrial action in defence of decent services and work conditions, UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said “NHS staff go above and beyond what's expected of them every day and every week.”
UNISON news release • TUC Stronger Unions blog • Risks 676 • 18 October 2014
Britain: Stressed social workers on the brink of quitting
The stress of “sharing people's misery”, increasing workloads and a lack of resources mean many social workers want to quit the profession, a survey has found. Nearly one in 10 UK social workers had considering leaving the job, with over a fifth of these blaming stress or unmanageable caseloads.
Community Care • BBC News Online • Risks 675 • 11 October 2014
Britain: Teachers welcome minister’s workload pledge
Teaching union NUT has welcomed a commitment from the government to reduce teacher workloads. Education secretary Nicky Morgan, addressing the Conservative Party conference on 30 September, described teachers as the “heroes” of the education system, and promised she would make a priority of reducing their workload.
NUT news release and survey findings • Education Secretary’s Conservative conference speech • BBC News Online • Risks 674 • 4 October 2014
Britain: TUC stress guide for European safety week
The TUC has produced a revised guide to tackling stress using the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) management standards. The publication is intended as a resource of use by safety reps, and comes ahead of the stress-themed European Health and Safety Week, which this year runs from 20 October.
TUC Safety Reps Guide to the HSE Stress Management Standards [pdf] • TUC European Health and Safety Week webpages and National Inspection Day webpage • Risks 673 • 27 September 2014
Britain: Stress tops the workplace concerns of UNISON reps
UNISON health and safety reps have identified stress as a top hazard in the workplace. Responding ahead of next month's European Health and Safety Week, 9 out of 10 reps placed stress and related issues including bullying and harassment, violence and threats, overwork and long hours, as their most serious workplace concern. UNISON says its survey findings reinforce the union’s call for branches to support the stress-themed European Health and Safety Week, which this year runs from Monday 20 October to Sunday 26 October.
UNISON news release and European Health and Safety Week webpages • TUC European Health and Safety Week webpages and National Inspection Day webpage • Risks 672 • 20 September 2014
Britain: Mental health is a big issue at work
The cost of living crisis means workers are increasingly at risk of mental health problems, the union Usdaw has said. Paddy Lillis, the union’s deputy general secretary, told the TUC’s annual conference in Liverpool that trade union and workplace reps have a big role to play in supporting members coping with mental health issues.
Usdaw news release • The Guardian • BBC News Online • Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer • Risks 671 • 13 September 2014
German: Ban on out-of-office contact investigated
German employment minister Andrea Nahles is considering new “anti-stress” legislation that would ban companies from contacting employees out of hours. Concerns over rising levels of workplace stress prompted the minister to commission a report investigating the viability of legislation that would restrict the use of emails to contact staff outside of work.
Daily Mail • The Guardian • Risks 670 • 7 September 2014
Europe: Burnout linked to performance management
The closely policed pressure to perform at work is creating a generation of burnout victims, experts have warned. Online publication Equal Times notes: “The way the working environment is organised appears to be a major factor in the development of burnout,” adding: “It is an environment that is increasingly dehumanised and pressurised, an environment that is increasingly taking over people’s personal lives.”
Equal Times • European Institute for Intervention and Research on Burnout • Risks 664 • 26 July 2014
Britain: Suicide linked to performance monitoring
The widow of a Stafford planning officer found hanged has told an inquest her husband was “very distressed” by performance monitoring at work. Nicky Atkins challenged claims that 45-year-old Phil Atkins was only subject to “informal” monitoring following concerns about the standard of his work at Stafford Borough Council’s planning department.
Staffordshire Newsletter • More on work-related suicide • Risks 663 • 19 July 2014.
Britain: UNISON sets a date for work stress action
UNISON is calling on its members to campaign against government spending cuts it says are putting both stressed-out workers and communities at risk. The public sector union say October's stress-themed European Health and Safety Week will provide a vital opportunity to promote good health and safety practice.
UNISON news release. European Health and Safety Week 2014 • Risks 662 • 12 July 2014
Britain: Performance pay is bad for your health
Performance-related pay is bad for your health, a new study has found. After analysing survey results of more than 2,500 people from across Britain. Aberdeen University researchers concluded “being in jobs with a performance pay element increases the likelihood of health deterioration.”
Keith A. Bender and Ioannis Theodossiou. The unintended consequences of the rat race: the detrimental effects of performance pay on health, Oxford Economic Papers, volume 66, Number 3, pages 824-847, 2014. Herald Scotland. More on the issue from Hazards and Karoshi.jp • Risks 661 • 5 July 2014
Britain: Stressed teachers 'at breaking point'
Scotland's teachers “are at breaking point” over increased workloads and changes to their jobs, the union EIS has warned. General secretary Larry Flanagan told the union’s annual conference there was evidence many teachers were struggling to cope.
EIS news release and Make Time for Teaching campaign • BBC News Online • Risks 658 • 14 June 2014
Britain: Fire service action continues over pensions
Firefighters in England and Wales are to continue a series of walk outs over attacks on their pensions after the government confirmed it intends to implement a new scheme without further negotiations. The plans include shifting the pension age from 55 to 60, a move the union FBU says is not tenable in a safety critical and physically demanding job.
FBU news release • Risks 658 • 14 June 2014
Europe: Union spreads its bullying at sea message
A training film produced to combat bullying and harassment in the shipping industry, which was made in response to research by seafarers’ union Nautilus, has picked up an award in an international competition festival. The 20-minute film - ‘Say no to bullying, say no to harassment’ - was produced by Videotel for a European Union project to update guidelines and an associated training package originally produced in 2004, this also a response to a union report.
Nautilus news release • ETF training video and supporting documents • Risks 657 • 7 June 2014
Britain: Wales TUC backs mental health changes
The Wales TUC unanimously backed a call for workers with mental health issues to have better protection and for union representatives to be given more support in advising and representing workers struggling with mental health problems. A motion from the union USDAW said there needs to be better support and resources for employers to help them deal with these complex issues and called on the Welsh Government to sharpen its focus on workplaces as part of the wider mental health strategy, leading to a culture where people are supported at work and employers understand that mental wellbeing is as important as physical wellbeing.
USDAW news release • Risks 656 • 31 May 2014
Australia: Your boss could make you sick
Employers who overwork and micromanage their staff can make them sick, researchers have confirmed. A study of more than 7,000 Norwegian people who were middle-aged and otherwise healthy found those in high-stress offices were more likely to need two weeks or more off work a year and experience symptoms like chest pain, nausea and shortness of breath.
Daily Mail • Sydney Morning Herald. Min-Jung Wang, Arnstein Mykletun, Ellen Ihlen Møyner, Simon Øverland, Max Henderson, Stephen Stansfeld, Matthew Hotopf, Samuel B. Harvey. Job strain, health and sickness absence: Results from the Hordaland Health Study, Plos One, published 22 April 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.009602 • Risks 653 • 10 May 2014
Britain: Traumatised train driver may be the last to get payout
A train driver traumatised after a suicidal person walked in front of his 125mph train in March 2012 could be the last to receive a payout from an official criminal injuries compensation scheme. Under cost-cutting rule changes introduced on 26 November 2012, many workers – including some victims of violence at work and train drivers traumatised by a suicide on the track – are excluded from payments from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
The Independent • Risks 653 • 10 May 2014
Britain: NHS staff are being pushed to breaking point
NHS staff are being pushed to breaking point - with stress showing up as the number one health and safety issue facing UNISON members working in the NHS. That was the clear message of a 'body mapping' exercise that was carried out at the union's health conference.
UNISON news release • More on workplace mapping techniques • Risks 652 • 3 May 2014
Britain: Stressed ambulance service is at breaking point
The ambulance service is on the verge of breaking down as thousands of stressed out staff fear they will not be able to continue doing their jobs. Tight targets, long hours and the physical demands of the job are placing an enormous burden on overworked ambulance workers, according to a UNISON survey.
UNISON news release. Morning Star • Risks 651 • 26 April 2014
Britain: Pressure on teachers is hurting mental health
A rise in mental health problems among education workers over the past two years is linked to the pressure of performance targets and inspections, according to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). More than a third (38 per cent) of school and college staff had noticed a rise in mental health problems among colleagues in the past two years; more than half (55 per cent) felt their job had a negative impact on their mental health.
ATL news release • Morning Star • Union News • Risks 651 • 26 April 2014
Britain: Bullying Bedford Council even worse than anticipated
A stress and harassment survey of GMB members employed at Bedford Council has found the problem to be even worse than originally feared. The survey conducted in December 2013 and January 2014 was undertaken by the union after it received an increase in calls from members claiming they had been bullied and unfairly treated.
GMB news release • Risks 644 • 1 March 2014
Britain: UK ‘worst’ on workforce mental health support
The UK is the worst performing OECD country when it comes to supporting workforce mental health, a new report has found. ‘Mental health and work: The United Kingdom’, published this week by the OECD, says better policies and practices by employers and the health system are needed to help people deal with mental health issues and get back to work.
The Work Foundation news release • OECD new release and report, Mental Health and Work: The United Kingdom • Risks 642 • 15 February 2014
Britain: Civil servants irate at unfair appraisal scheme
Britain's most senior tax officials say they have been forced to resort to industrial action over the imposition of new employee appraisals that require one in 10 revenue workers to be designated as underperformers regardless of how good they are at their jobs. Leaders of the senior civil servants union FDA have told the chief executive of HMRC, Lin Homer, they fear their members will be penalised if they do not identify 10 per cent of staff who need improvement.
FDA news release • The Guardian • More on performance appraisal • Risks 642 • 15 February 2014
Britain: Train drivers need not relive rail death horrors
Train drivers traumatised after someone dies under their train must not be compelled to relive the experience in person at an inquest, their union ASLEF has said. In a meeting with the Chief Coroner of England and Wales, Peter Thornton, ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said affected train drivers should be allowed to submit written evidence.
ASLEF news report • Risks 640 • 1 February 2014
Britain: New concerns about performance management
Civil servants could be unfairly targeted under a new performance management system, the union Prospect has warned. It says the new process could see “line managers under pressure to deliver a forced distribution of performance markings;” adding: “The union fears that if the process is not closely monitored and challenged, it may be used to force managed exits and drive down pay.”
Prospect news release • Hazards performance management guide • Risks 639 • 25 January 2013
Britain: Unbreakable workers are not the answer
Britain’s civil servants are wilting under the pressure of escalating workloads and the government has an answer – but TUC is far from impressed. The civil service has introduced “resilience training” to help staff cope with the harrowing combination of cutbacks and mounting demands.
TUC critique of resilience in Hazards magazine and facebook safety page • The Guardian • Financial Times • Risks 639 • 25 January 2013
Australia: Workers are becoming more stressed
Workplace stress is on the rise in Australia, according to a new survey, with three in four workers saying it is affecting their health. More than 1,500 people took part in the survey commissioned by the Australian Psychological Society (APS).
APS news release • Sydney Morning Herald • ABC News • Risks 631 • 16 November 2013
Britain: Employers not doing enough to address stress
Stressed workers are suffering in silence and employers aren’t doing enough to tackle stress, according to new figures from Mind. The mental health charity’s survey of over 2,000 workers found 45 per cent of those polled said that staff are expected to cope without mentioning stress at work and almost a third (31 per cent) said that they would not be able to talk openly to their line manager if they felt stressed.
Mind news release • UNISON ‘Cut stress, not jobs’ campaign resources • Risks 627 • 19 October 2013
Britain: A&E doctors face ‘intolerable pressures’
Urgent action must be taken to ensure emergency departments remain sustainable and safe, doctors have warned. The call comes after a report found A&E consultants were facing “intolerable pressures” in the workplace.
College of Emergency Medicine news release and Stretched to the limit report • The Independent • Risks 626 • 12 October 2013
France: Public service deal on psychosocial risks
The French government, eight trade unions and representatives of public employers signed a framework agreement on 22 October on the prevention of psychosocial risks in the public service. The agreement requires each public employer to draw up a “psychosocial risk assessment and prevention plan” by 2015.
ETUI news report • Risks 629 • 2 November 2013
Britain: Unions challenge new ‘resilience’ push
Journalists have added their backing to TUC concerns about the emergence of a resilience industry, intent on making workers ‘man up’ and shrug off the stresses and strains of work. The union alert came ahead of the 10 October launch by the government of a new workplace mental health “pledge”, which will urge employers to sign up to the resilience approach.
TUC’s Hugh Robertson on resilience, in Hazards magazine, number 123, 2013. Public Health Responsibility Deal • Risks 625 • 5 October 2013
Britain: However good you are, you are not good enough
A managerial offensive is taking place at work, with a new report claiming the government’s blitz on employment rights and welfare is being mirrored in a “new workplace tyranny” and a massive intensification of work. Professor Phil Taylor of the University of Strathclyde Business School, writing in Hazards magazine, warns that performance management is the main tool used to up the pressure at work, with a proportion of workers set up to fail by design.
The New Normal, Hazards magazine, number 123, 2013 • Risks 624 • 28 September 2013
Britain: Worker kills himself after stress claim
An inquest has heard that a top lawyer told a colleague he was going to kill himself the day before he threw himself under a Tube train. David Latham, 58, a world-renowned trademark lawyer at a large law company, was said to be 'inconsolable' with worry, and told a fellow partner that he was planning to kill himself after weeks of sleepless nights over the fate of a big case.
Fulham Chronicle • Risks 623 • 21 September 2013
Britain: TUC slams new 'resilience' culture
The TUC's head of Health and Safety has expressed concern over attempts to make workers more resilient rather than workplaces more healthy. Hugh Robertson has used the new issue of Hazards magazine to express concerns over attempts by consultants and personnel managers to improve the ability of works to withstand stress better. Tough Luck, Hazards, number 123, July-September 2013 • Risks 623 • 21 September 2013
Finland: Making jobs better keeps you well
Cutting the mental and social strain caused by work can make workers healthier in the short and long term, new research has found. A Finnish study discovered the risk of an employee claiming a work disability pension due to musculoskeletal diseases can be decreased by up to 35 per cent by reducing the workplace strains.
FIOH news release and key papers and conference programme • Risks 620 • 31 August 2013
Global: Job worries raise heart disease risks
There is a “modest association” between self-reported job insecurity and coronary heart disease (CHD), a major study has found. In a response welcoming the British Medical Journal paper, Paul Nicholson, chair of the British Medical Association’s Occupational Medicine Committee, noted job insecurity is also linked to increased sickness and raised cholesterol levels and blood pressure, adding the new study was important “because we are living in ‘VUCA times’, that is to say the world is: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.”
Marianna Virtanen and others. Perceived job insecurity as a risk factor for incident coronary heart disease: systematic review and meta-analysis, British Medical Journal, volume 347, f4746, 2013, published online 8 August. Response to the article from BMA OMC chair Paul Nicholson • TUC news release • The Mirror • More on job insecurity • Risks 618 • 17 August 2013
Britain: Action as stress and bugs blight hospitals
Over-stretched staff labouring in bug infested Leeds hospitals are wilting under the stress, GMB has said. GMB’s Bill Chard said: “Continual re-organisation, higher than UK average levels of stress, mixed with ongoing financial pressures all add up to a lethal mix.”
GMB news release • Yorkshire Evening Post • Risks 617 • 10 August 2013
Australia: Safety agency guilty of ‘institutional bullying’
An official workplace safety agency in Australia hounded a worker out of his job in a display of “scurrilous” and “malicious” behaviour, a court has found. The New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission found that “shabby and disgraceful” WorkCover had produced a six-volume report as part of its proceedings to dismiss Wayne Butler, but this was “fundamentally flawed” and “arrived at conclusions that were not supported by facts.”
Newcastle Herald • Sydney Morning Herald • Risks 612 • 6 July 2013
Britain: Stress Network conference, 23-24 November, Birmingham
The national Stress Network’s annual conference is to take place from 23-24 November. This year’s event has the theme: ‘Are health and safety cuts the right medicine?’
Stress Network conference, Saturday, 23-24 November, Hillscourt Conference Centre, Rednal, Birmingham B45 8RS. Stress Network website and conference booking form • Risks 612 • 6 July 2013
Britain: Strike action plan over teacher workloads
Scotland's largest teaching union has backed a campaign of action, including strikes, over increased workloads created by the new curriculum. Delegates at the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) conference in Perth carried a motion calling for a campaign of action to be in place by December in protest against increased workloads.
EIS workload campaign • Daily Record • BBC News Online • Risks 609 • 15 June 2013
Britain: Pressure and job insecurity hits a 20-year high
British workers are feeling less secure and more pressured at work than at any time in the past 20 years, with pay cuts and diminished control over their jobs among the biggest concerns, according to a national survey of employees' wellbeing. More than 3,000 workers aged between 20 and 60 were interviewed in 2012 for the latest in a six-yearly Skills and Employment survey.
Cardiff School of Social Sciences news release and the 2012 Skills and Employment Survey (SES) and three reports: Fear at work in Britain, Work intensification in Britain and Job-related well-being in Britain, May 2013 • Financial Times • The Guardian • More on insecure work and health • Risks 606 • 25 May 2013
Britain: Train drivers concerned over makeshift shrines
The appearance of makeshift shrines at the site of rail tragedies is distressing for train drivers and not an appropriate way to pay tribute to the dead, the rail union ASLEF has said. ASLEF’s officer in Scotland Kevin Lindsay said: “No-one wishes to come to work and be reminded that someone has died there.”
ASLEF news release • The Scotsman • Risks 606 • 25 May 2013
Britain: Mental health charity bullies its own staff
A mental health charity has been told to stop bullying its staff and to start practising what it preaches. Turning Point has recently threatened all its 2,600 staff with the sack unless they agree to new and worse contracts – causing huge amounts of stress and anxiety.
UNISON news release • Risks 605 • 18 May 2013
Britain: NUJ welcomes BBC bullying action plan
Journalists’ union NUJ has welcomed recommendations to address the entrenched bullying culture at the BBC. The measures are outlined in the report of the ‘Respect at work’ review conducted by Dinah Rose QC into bullying and harassment at the broadcaster.
NUJ news release and Stop bullying guide • Video clip of Michelle Stanistreet's BBC interview • BBC Respect at work review and trade union section • The Guardian • Risks 604 • 11 May 2013
Britain: Work stress led to school head’s suicide
A stressed headteacher found hanged at her school in Worcestershire killed herself, a coroner has ruled. Helen Mann, whose body was discovered in a stairwell at Sytchampton First School near Stourport-on-Severn on 5 November 2012, was concerned that if an Ofsted inspection was imminent, the school would lose its 'oustanding' rating.
Kidderminster Shuttle • BBC News Online • Malvern Gazette • More on work-related suicides • Risks 603 • 4 May 2013
Britain: Retailers shopped by exhausted staff
Understaffing and long opening hours are leaving shopworkers stressed, miserable and unable to take breaks, their union has said. The Morning Star reports that delegates at the annual Usdaw conference have called for action to address low staffing levels. Morning Star • Risks 603 • 4 May 2013
Britain: Needlestick injuries cause psychiatric trauma
Needlestick or ‘sharps’ injuries are resulting in persistent and substantial psychiatric illness or depression in workers in a wide range of industries, a new study has found. Research published this month in the journal Occupational Medicine found that those affected suffered psychiatric trauma that is similar in severity to trauma caused by other events such as road traffic accidents.
SOM news release. B. Green and EC Griffiths. Psychiatric consequences of needlestick injury, Occupational Medicine volume 63, pages 183–188, 2013 • 13 April 2013
Britain: Emails used as a ‘punitive’ management tool
Teachers are being swamped by a deluge of work-related emails sent in holidays, evenings and weekends, adding to their workload and causing stress and distress, the union NASUWT has warned. It says a recent survey conducted by the union revealed that nearly one in five teachers had received a stream of bullying and demanding emails from senior colleagues.”
NASUWT news release • Risks 599 • 30 March 2013
Britain: Prison educators are highly stressed
Education staff who work in prisons have considerably higher levels of work-related stress than British workers in general, a new report commissioned by the union UCU has found. ‘A punishing regime - a survey of occupational stress and well-being among prison educators’ found that 72 per cent of the prison educators who responded 'strongly agreed' or 'agreed' with the statement, "I find my job stressful".
UCU news release and report, A punishing regime - a survey of occupational stress and well-being among prison educators, Gail Kinman and Siobhan Wray, University of Bedfordshire • POA news release • Risks 599 • 30 March 2013
Britain: Schools inspectors are ‘hit men’ for ministers
School inspectors are becoming education ministers’ hit men, teaching union NASUWT has claimed. Ninety-five per cent of teachers who responded to an NASUWT survey into inspection said that they believe the schools inspections system operates in the interests of politicians rather than the public or pupils.
NASUWT news release • Hazards work-related suicide guide • Risks 599 • 30 March 2013
Britain: Burnout bigger heart risk than smoking
Burnout at work is worse for your heart than smoking cigarettes, research has found. The study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found that people suffering work-related burnout are even more likely to develop heart disease than smokers.
TUC Touchstone Blog • Medical News Today • Psychosomatic Medicine • Risks 598
• 23 March 2013
Britain: Work is the top cause of stress
Work is the most stressful factor in people’s lives, research commissioned by Mind has found. The mental health charity found one in three people (34 per cent) said their work life was either very or quite stressful, topping both debt or financial problems (30 per cent) and health (17 per cent).
Mind news release and stress webinars • New TUC guide on mental health conditions at work • Risks 598 • 23 March 2013
Britain: Academics stressed by out of control workloads
A survey of more than 14,000 higher education staff in the UK has found academics and academic-related staff are increasingly stressed by a loss of control over the way they work. The research, carried out by the union UCU, found that stress caused by a perceived lack of control at work has increased among higher education staff over the four years from 2008 to 2012.
UCU news release • Risks 597 • 16 March 2013
Britain: Almost 9 out of 10 council workers are stressed
A staggering 87 per cent of local government workers are struggling to cope with increased stress and pressure at work, research by UNISON has found. The survey of more than 14,000 workers by UNISON discovered a ‘toxic cocktail’ of declining staff numbers and increasing expectations from the public and employers is piling on the pressure.
UNISON news release • Morning Star • Risks 594 • 23 February 2013
Britain: Everything Everywhere has stress everywhere
Mobile phone firm Everything Everywhere (EE) might be making a healthy profit, but it is also making its workers stressed, research by the union CWU has found. Using Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stress management criteria, the results rate EE as 'urgent action needed' in all seven areas identified as the main risk factors for workplace stress. CWU news release and EE stress survey • Risks 594 • 23 February 2013
Ireland: Tesco staff wear work rate trackers
Staff at a Tesco warehouse in Ireland have been made to wear digital arm-band devices that constantly police their work rate. The Motorola website promoting the technology tells employers the “rugged mobile computing device will allow you to achieve maximum error-proof productivity, operational efficiency and accuracy through voice compatibility for streamlined warehouse and package handling functions.”
Irish Independent • Motorola website • Risks 593 • 16 February 2013
Britain: Report slams the ‘tyranny’ of performance management
The ‘relentless pressure’ of punitive performance management systems intended to push up productivity is instead creating a stressed, sick and insecure workforce, a new study has found. ‘Performance management and the new workplace tyranny’ written by Professor Phil Taylor of the University of Strathclyde, is the culmination of a three year study examining the impact new forms of performance management.
STUC news release • ‘Performance Management and the New Workplace Tyranny’ Report, Professor Phil Taylor, January 2013 • Executive Summary • The Herald • Risks 591 • 2 February 2013
Britain: UNISON survey leads to stress action
A UNISON survey of stress problems experienced by council staff in Glasgow has resulted in the employer agreeing to implement a ‘prevention and control’ action plan. The initiative was prompted by concerns raised by UNISON members about the effect spending cuts were having on workloads and workplace pressures.
UNISON news release • UNISON’s Stress at work guide for safety reps and Risk assessment – a guide for UNISON safety reps • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guide: Managing the causes of work related stress: a step by step approach using the Management Standards • Risks 588 • 12 January 2013
Britain: Teaching stress up, morale down
Stress in teachers is soaring as morale in the profession plummets, analyses published in December 2012 have revealed. NUT general secretary Christine Blower said the findings reflected the pressure teachers were under and warned austerity measures were placing additional strain on staff.
The Guardian • BBC News Online • Risks 588 • 12 January 2013
Britain: Job loss increases heart attack risk
Job loss can raise your heart attack risk as much as smoking, with those who have lost a succession of jobs at higher risk still. A study of 13,451 people in the US found heart attacks increased by over a quarter (27 per cent) among people who were recently unemployed, regardless of occupation.
Matthew E Dupre, Linda K George and others. The cumulative dffect of unemployment on risks for acute myocardial infarction, Achives of Internal Medicine, Online First, November 2012. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.447. BBC News Online •
VJC Mc Carthy, IJ Perry and BA Greiner. Age, job characteristics and coronary health, Occupational Medicine, volume 62, number 8, pages 613-619, 2012. Irish Independent • Risks 583 • 24 November 2012
Britain: Stress ‘timebomb’ ticking at Johnston Press
Overworked journalists facing a stress ‘timebomb’ at work are demanding urgent talks with Johnston Press after the company announced further massive cuts. Journalists’ union NUJ is warning that increased workload and stress levels are endangering both staff and the publications they produce.
NUJ news release • Risks 582 • 17 November 2012
Britain: Suicide death trauma for train driver
A train driver who suffered psychological injuries when his train killed a suicide victim who had laid his head down on the tracks has received compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS). But his union ASLEF warns cuts to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) being pushed through by the government will mean train drivers will no longer be able to claim for the trauma caused by witnessing a suicide.
Thompsons Solicitors news release • Risks 581 • 10 November 2012
Britain: Train driver medically retired after suicide ‘horror’
A London train driver suffered such severe psychological injuries when her train killed a suicide victim she was medically retired as result. RMT member Karen Jordan said: “I am appalled that drivers who might go through what I saw and experienced are to be banned by the government from getting any compensation for the horror. ”
RMT news release and related RMT news release • Morning Star • Daily Mirror • Risks 581 • 10 November 2012
Britain: High stress and long hours blight universities
University staff are suffering ‘damaging’ stress levels arising from intense workloads and a long hours culture, union research has found. A report of a UCU survey of 14,000 higher education academic and academic-related staff ranks marked the start of UCU's campaign against excessive workloads in post-16 education.
UCU news release and workload campaign • Risks 577 • 13 October 2012
Britain: Teachers angry at official ‘work harder’ jibe
Teachers already facing a pay freeze have expressed anger after England’s chief inspector of schools called on them to ‘work harder’ or face further hardship. The comments from Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw, in a 22 September interview with The Times newspaper, reignited union concerns that the Ofsted chief is fronting government policy and ignoring the serious and damaging stresses of the job.
NASUWT news release • BBC News Online • Risks 575 • 29 September 2012
Britain: Work stress raises heart risk
A combination of high demand at work and low control over decision making increases the risks of deadly heart problems, a major new report has found. UK researchers analysed 13 existing European studies covering nearly 200,000 people and found “job strain” was linked to a 23 per cent increased risk of heart attacks and deaths from coronary heart disease.
Mika Kivimäki and others. Job strain as a risk factor for coronary heart disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of individual participant data, The Lancet, published online 14 September 2012. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60994-5. BBC News Online • The Guardian • Risks 574 • 22 September 2012
Britain: Sun stripping stunt exposes bullying culture
Journalists’ union NUJ has expressed dismay after a woman doing work experience for the Sun newspaper was asked to strip off and pose with a member of staff for mocked-up pictures of Prince Harry. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said although 21-year-old Sophie Henderson said she was not forced to do it “she should not have been asked to in the first place.”
NUJ news release and evidence to the Leveson Inquiry • The Guardian • Huffington Post • The Bureau of Investigative Journalism • Risks 571 • 1 September 2012
Britain: Government policy is promoting suicides
The UK recession has led to a sharp rise in suicides, a new study has found. The researchers warn that the government’s austerity programme is not worth the human cost and efforts should instead centre on job creation.
David Stuckler and others. Suicides associated with the 2008-2010 recession in England: time-trend analysis, www.bmj.com, published online 14 July 2012 • Risks 569 • 18 August 2012
Britain: Jobcentre strike over oppressive targets
Jobcentre staff took strike action this week over oppressive working conditions and unrealistic targets. On 13 August, more than 6,000 PCS members in 32 call centres in England, Scotland and Wales reignited industrial action first taken last year against “draconian conditions” they say prevent them from providing the kind of service callers require and deserve.
PCS news release • Risks 569 • 18 August 2012
Australia: Study confirms insecure work is dangerous
New official Australian research showing casual workers are 50 per cent more likely to be injured at work is solid proof that insecure work leads to unsafe working environments, the country’s top union body has said. ‘Australian work-related injury experience by sex and age, 2009-2010’, published by national safety regulator Safe Work Australia, found that casual workers without leave entitlements reported 54 injuries per million hours worked compared with a rate of 35 for those with leave entitlements.
Safe Work Australia news release • Australian work-related injury experience by sex and age, 2009-2010, Safe Work Australia, 30 July 2012 [pdf] • ACTU news release • ABC News • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Canada: Temp workers are falling through cracks
Complex employment relationships, gaps in the regulatory system and job insecurity can leave low-wage temp agency workers more vulnerable to workplace injuries, according to new research from the Toronto-based Institute for Work and Health. Researcher Ellen MacEachen and colleagues found “that low-wage temp agency workers are less well protected because of the complex working relationship in which they find themselves.” At Work, Issue 69, IWH, Summer 2012 and related research presentation, The management of OHS and return-to-work issues in temporary work agencies [pdf] • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Britain: Job strain linked to circulatory disease in women
A major US study has linked high strain, active jobs to a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in female health professionals. The study examined the relationship between job strain and job insecurity and rates of CVD among the 22,086 participants in the Women’s Health Study (WHS).
Slopen N, Glynn RJ, Buring JE, Lewis TT, Williams DR and others (2012). Job Strain, Job Insecurity, and Incident Cardiovascular Disease in the Women’s Health Study: Results from a 10-Year Prospective Study • PLoS ONE 7(7): e40512. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040512 • Risks 567 • 4 August 2012
Global: ILO spells out why stress at work matters
A decision by a French judge to subject France Telecom and two former top executives to a judicial review regarding their alleged role in a wave of staff suicides highlights the dangers of stress at work, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said. The suicides at France Telecom in 2008 and 2009 coincided with the unfolding global financial crisis and restructuring of the company.
ILO news release and related publications: Stress prevention at work checkpoints, a guide to auditing safety and health controls and SOLVE: Integrating health promotion into workplace OSH policies • Financial Times • The Guardian • More on occupational suicides • Risks 564 • 14 July 2012
Japan: Work suicides, heart disease and depression up
Official compensation payouts for work-related suicides and depression in Japan are running at a record high, the health ministry has said. Figures for 2011 reveal the number of payouts approved for work-related mental illnesses climbed to an all-time high of 325 in the 2011 tax year.
Japan Times • Risks 561 • 23 June 2012
Britain: Fewer promotions mean more heart attacks
Civil servants working in departments with high promotion rates were 20 per cent less likely to suffer heart attacks, a UK study has found. The authors say their findings reinforce a growing body of research that indicates upward mobility and socioeconomic status have important effects on physical health.
Michael Anderson and Michael Marmot. The effects of promotions on heart disease: Evidence from Whitehall, The Economic Journal, volume 122, issue 561, pages 555–589, June 2012 [abstract] • The Observer • Risks 559 • 9 June 2012
Britain: Teachers dismayed at Ofsted pressure
The head of the schools standards body Ofsted has angered teachers by saying he is not interested in hearing about stress of their jobs. In comments to a May 2012 conference of independent school heads, new chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw said he didn’t want excuses for poor performance, among them “this job is far too stressful.” BBC News Online • The Observer • Risks 556 • 19 May 2012
Europe: Industry opposes strain injury rules
Employers’ lobby groups from across Europe are opposing rules to reduce workplace risks from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). In a letter to Antonio Tajani, vice-president of the European Commission’s Industry Committee, and László Andor, the Social Affairs Commissioner, nine European employers’ associations say the European legislative initiative is “neither necessary nor desirable”.
ETUI news report • Joint Employers' letter on MSD [pdf] • Risks 552 • 21 April 2012
Britain: Work pressure makes school staff sick
School workers are falling ill as a result of the pressure of their jobs, teaching unions have warned. ATL has said in the current academic year four in ten education staff have visited the doctor and a quarter taken sick leave because of job pressure.
NUT news release • ATL news release • Risks 551 • 14 April 2012
Britain: Government makes jobs less secure
Increasing the time before workers are protected from unfair dismissal from one year to two years could leave 2.7 million people at increased risk of losing their jobs, the TUC has warned. Job insecurity has been linked to higher rates of injuries at work and of work-related suicides, sickness and ill-health and has also been shown to drive down productivity.
TUC news release • BBC News Online • Risks 550 • • 7 April 2012
Europe: Stress in the workplace to rise
Job-related stress is a concern for the large majority of the workforce, a Europe-wide survey has found. The 2nd European Opinion Poll on Occupational Safety and Health, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), found eight in ten (80 per cent) of the working population across Europe think the number of people suffering from job-related stress over the next five years will increase, with over half (52 per cent) expecting this to ‘increase a lot’.
EU-OSHA news release, full results of the pan-European poll and EU results, country summaries and methodology • Risks 549 • 31 March 2012
Britain: Strain on NHS takes its toll on staff
The government’s handling of the health service is leaving staff facing soaring stress levels, the union UNISON has said. The union was commenting on the publication this week of the official NHS Staff Survey findings for 2011.
UNISON news release • NHS Staff Survey news release and National NHS Staff Survey Coordination Centre and NHS Information Centre • BBC News Online • Risks 548 • 24 March 2012
China: Call for law to stop overwork deaths
A law to prevent a growing number of deaths related to overwork has been proposed at China’s National's People's Congress (NPC). Hu Xiaoyan, China's first migrant worker elected as a representative of the NPC, made the call during the law-making body’s annual session.
China Daily • Global Times’ April 2011 report on Pan Jie’s death • Risks 547 • 17 March 2012
Stress Network Annual Conference, 23-25 November 2012
The National Work Stress Network’s 2012 conference will be held in Rednal, near Birmingham on the weekend of 23-25 November. Marking the bicentenary this year of the birth of Charles Dickens, the event has a theme of ‘Hard Times, Great Expectations and Victorian values – combatting workplace stress in hostile times.”
National Work Stress Network conference, 23-25 November 2012, Hillscourt Conference Centre, Rednal, Nr Birmingham B45 8RS. Flyer and booking form [pdf] • Risks 545 • 3 March 2012
Britain: NUJ condemns ‘bullying newsroom culture’
Journalists are being bullied by newspaper management and put under huge pressure to deliver the story at all costs, the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics has heard. Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the media union NUJ, gave evidence compiled from personal interviews with journalists that reveals what NUJ describes as a shocking catalogue of bullying and abuse in the newspaper industry.
NUJ news release • Leveson Inquiry and pages including NUJ evidence • Risks 543 • 18 February 2012
Britain: Excessive working time causes depression
A new study has concluded that working long hours - regardless of job stress or satisfaction - increases the risk of depression. Researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College London followed nearly 2,000 middle-aged British civil servants for almost six years.
TUC Touchstone blog. Marianna Virtanen and others. Overtime work as a predictor of major depressive episode: A 5-year follow-up of the Whitehall II Study, PLoS ONE, volume 7, number 1, published online 25 January 2012. CBS News • Risks 541 • 4 February 2012
Global: ILO workplace stress prevention checkpoints
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has produced a manual of “easy-to-apply checkpoints for identifying stressors in working life and mitigating their harmful effects.” According to ILO the negative impacts of stress “can lead to poor work performance, high accident and injury rates, and low productivity.”
Stress Prevention at Work Checkpoints. Practical improvements for stress prevention in the workplace, ILO, January 2012 [full text pdf] • Developing a workplace stress prevention programme • Risks 538 • 14 January 2012
Britain: Tackle teacher stress or pay, says union
Schools must tackle soaring teacher stress, Scottish teaching union EIS has said. The union was speaking out after revealing the union had settled a six figure out-of-court compensation claim for a member who suffered a stress-related psychiatric injury after the employer failed to act on a series of warnings about excessive workloads.
EIS news release • The Scotsman • Risks 538 • 14 January 2012