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World Day for Safety and Health at Work tackles the challenge of workplace stress

28 April 2016

This year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work, on Thursday 28th April, focuses on the challenge of workplace stress. Positive Response, which helps businesses protect staff from verbal abuse and physical threat, urges organisationsto remember that aggressive behaviour, violence and crime can be a major contributor to stress and unhappiness at work for front-line staff.

Findings from the recent Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) show that around 58% of victims reported one incident of work related violence, while 20% experienced two incidents of work related violence and 21% experienced three or more incidents in 2014/15. Strangers were the offenders in 54% of cases of workplace violence, and among the 46% of incidents where the offender was known the offenders were most likely to be clients or a member of the public known through work.

Angry or frustrated customers can lash out at service staff, either through verbal abuse or physical violence, and the fear and uncertainty of volatile behaviour is a significant contributor to workplace stress. Exposure to violence is believed to have a large impact on mental health. The emotional expense of aggressive behaviour on staff is coupled with the cost of potential staff absence for businesses. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), workplace injury and illness, including stress, cost over £14 billion in 2013-14 in the UK.

“Service industry workers often feel vulnerable to the emotions and reactions of their customers, especially where adequate security measures have not been taken,” says Dave Whittle, CEO of Positive Response. “Employers have a Duty of Care to their employees. They need to take a strategic view of staff security and wellbeing and put proactive measures in place to support their people.”

Offering social support to co-workers and facilitating communication between staff can help identify improvements and foster positivity at work. This can be achieved by investing in new technology that will ensure staff are supported. “Managers must consider giving staff extra support from security teams; training in managing anti-social and aggressive behaviour; and a system that provides staff with the means of raising an alarm quickly and easily – covertly if necessary – when exposed to threatening situations in the place of work,” concludes Whittle.

World Safety and Health at Work Day

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has marked its World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28th April each year, since 2003. World Day is an international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work around the globe. For more details see the ILO website: www.ilo.org/safework/events/safeday/lang--en/index.htm