Work-related stress is now the biggest health and safety hazard within companies and is costing businesses an absolute fortune, a Cork health and safety expert has said.
Marian Kiely, who runs a health and safety consulting firm called Upstream Safety, said that we are currently in what is being called “the fourth industrial revolution.”
“We are living in a very complex world, volatile, uncertain, complex ambiguous, our world is that way because technology is changing so fast.” Ms Kiely said many companies are not doing enough, ethically or legally to safeguard their employees from work-related stress.
“Our legislation sets out that every hazard must be identified and then we must risk assess it. We are great for doing this for chemicals and biological agents, but when it comes to the psycho-social hazards it is not being done. It is specified by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) that this needs to be in place.
“It is really bad for businesses and it is not good ethically.” The health and safety expert said that even companies that are addressing the issue of work-related stress are not doing enough.
“In relation to stress in the workplace, a lot of people will get people talking and saying it’s okay not to be okay and that is absolutely fine and very important, but in health and safety that is equivalent of putting plasters on cuts.
“It is recognising this is what we do; we recognise it and we follow this approach, but we need to be going further upstream and identify what it is that is making people feel like they can’t cope. We need to try and identify that.”
Ms Kiely said that in some cases it is bad management in organisations that are leading to people feeling like they can’t cope.
“People are not ants, they are not robots, they need to feel valued and respected, in order to contribute and work to the best of their ability.
The H&S expert said that companies that think they are saving money by ignoring work-related stress are making a very poor business decision.
“Depending on the size of an organisation, if you have 1,000 employees it is costing you about €1m a year in relation to presentism and absenteeism.
“If you look at a global company, they might have 50,000 employees, it is costing them around €50m a year.”