Work-related stress and poor mental health risk becoming a health and safety crisis for Great Britain’s workplaces, the Health & Safety Executive ("HSE") has warned.
The HSE is today launching a new campaign, "Working Minds", to help businesses recognise the signs of work-related stress and make tackling issues routine.
While "Working Minds" is specifically targeting 6m workers in small businesses, HSE is calling for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces, to ensure psychological risks are treated the same as physical ones in health and safety risk management. "Working Minds" provides employers and workers with easy to implement advice, including simple steps in its "5 Rs" to Reach out, Recognise, Respond, Reflect, and make it Routine.
Although the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is yet to be fully understood, mental health issues are the most common reason given for sick days in the UK. Last year more than 17m working days were lost as a result of stress, anxiety or depression.
HSE is reminding business that no matter where people work, employers have a legal duty to assess the risks in the workplace, not just in terms of potential hazards and physical safety. They should also promote good working practices. It says this promotes an open environment where employees can share their concerns and discuss options to ease pressures.
Chief executive Sarah Albon commented: "Work-related stress and poor mental health should be treated with the same significance as risks of poor physical health and injury. In terms of the effect it has on workers, significant and long-term stress can limit performance and impact personal lives.
"No worker should suffer in silence and if we don’t act now to improve workers’ mental health, this could evolve into a health and safety crisis.
"The pandemic has highlighted the need to protect the health of employees who have faced unprecedented challenges; the Government is committed to building back better and we want to make sure good mental health is central to this."
Sarah Jones, head of the Scotland Engagement & Partnership team at HSE, added: "Across the nations we will be working with local partners to ensure our work and messaging is targeted for local audiences. Lifelines Scotland have been involved in its development.
"HSE is also working in partnership with Scottish Government and a range of mental health partners to develop a signposting tool for small businesses on managing mental health at work. The campaign will continue to evolve and target sectors, nations and regions in response to feedback and insight."