Every April 28th is the World Day For Safety and Health at Work. This year’s topic chosen by the International Labour Organization to commemorate this day was ‘Workplace stress: a collective challenge’. The ILO’s choice wasn’t perchance: increasingly, studies are showing that stress is the ‘hidden killer’ in workplaces across the globe. The effects of stress on a person’s health are well-known, being a causal or contributing factor to everything from cardio-vascular diseases and various cancers to hypertension and a host of other diseases. But what of the impacts of stress on occupational safety?
Most obviously, stress can often make a person distracted or unable to concentrate on a given task, which will clearly have a negative effect on how safely a person works. This can often lead to that leading direct cause of accidents and incidents – human error. Dr. Michael Spiegel, the medical director of the Stanford Center on Stress and Health, believes that safety professionals can play a crucial role in how workers cope with stress. By doing so, they can actually prevent incidents from occurring. He states how, “It’s very clear that a big proportion of safety problems are due to human error, and some of that is related to stress…Life is full of stress. If you’re not stressed, you’re dead. But the thing about handling stress well is being able to appraise it, react to it appropriately and put it behind you.”