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Don't be stifled by stress

23 January 2013

Whatever you think of the proposed (at the time of going to press) tanker drivers strike, there is no doubt that many of their grievances are a sign of the times.

Whatever you think of the proposed (at the time of going to press) tanker drivers strike, there is no doubt that many of their grievances are a sign of the times. In an austere economic climate the pressure is on for organisations to find efficiencies and cut costs and this inevitably has an impact on workers. Writing for blog, Left Foot Forward, Tony, a driver with 18 years' experience, suggested how downward pressure to cut costs has been having a dangerous impact on the fuel supply industry, telling of:

• Cut throat operators driving down pay - and cutting corners on training
• Agency workers being brought in with only two days' training
• One contract for a major retailer requiring only one day's training before a tanker can be taken out on the road
• Mistakes being made by under-trained drivers resulting in contaminated fuel in forecourts
• Vehicles repaired so often drivers liken them to `Meccano' sets
• Unmanned forecourts where drivers are told to unload dangerous fuel alone
• Drivers being told to risk their own safety by approaching the public if they present a danger to the fuel, with reports of assaults on drivers as a result
• Greater numbers of low-cost operators entering the market, pushing standards down still further and the industry further towards 'chaos'

This is not an exceptional story. Common cost saving measures in a recession include redundancy which can involve losing experienced workers who may have valuable safety knowledge, including what are sometimes felt to be non-essential safety staff, and reduced investment in training. While these measures provide immediate cost savings they pave the way for the erosion of health & safety standards and leave the remaining workforce experiencing high levels of stress.

A recent study by the Occupational Medicine journal showed one in four workers has experienced stress in times of recession and an hsmsearch.com poll suggests that 67% of readers thought that levels of stress in their workplace may have risen during the recession. Worse still, a new survey from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) highlights stress as one of the greatest emerging risks for European workers and suggests that 80% of Europe's working population expect stress levels to rise in the next five years. Highlights of this issue of HSM include a look at how a proactive approach to workers' health & wellbeing and issues such as stress management can have a positive overall effect on the workforce and a round up of the latest product and service offerings in this area. We also have a special focus on the latest news and developments in the area of Training and Development.

Spending on Training and Health and Wellbeing may seem exorbitant when budgets are strained but it is wise to remember that a happy workforce is a more productive workforce. With cautious optimism that the UK has avoided a double dip recession and that therefore growth is not out of the question, it will be those who invest in their workforce who will be best placed to take advantage of any emerging economic opportunities.

Georgina Bisby
Group Editor
Health & Safety Matters