The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) stress management standards have come under fire for not providing employers with sufficient legal protection against potential stress-related cases. Industry bodies and trades unions have also criticised the guidelines for failing to clarify exactly what a measurable standard is.
Liz Burley, corporate safety adviser at East Ayrshire Council, which piloted the HSE’s standards, said that the guidelines have helped the organisation to identify areas where stress is a problem. “[Staff] were very vocal and told us exactly where the problems lay. Using the HSE interventions, managers would let people talk to give their [opinion] and with just some gentle guidelines, people came up with workable solutions.”
She added that this is the first time that the organisation has had a tangible way to measure stress. “The HSE have given us very clear guidelines. They were designed by psychologists for people like myself to understand. I could simply key in the information. There wasn’t a timescale and there’s really no time involved in it at all. I do believe it is measurable and what else have we actually got out there that we can measure [stress] against?” And the approach did not require a great deal of time to implement. “Everything was done to a very tight timescale. That was key,” Burley explained.
The standards have also enabled the council to tackle problems at the source before staff actually become ill.