By Peter Thorpe, Health, Safety and Sustainability Consultant, Make UK
I remember when I started my career in health & safety some thirty years ago, workplace stress was something that just wasn’t talked about.
Times have changed and thankfully there is now a much greater awareness of workplace stress and mental health. Cases of work-related stress, depression and anxiety are, however, on the increase with HSE statistics showing that they now account for 50% of all work-related ill-health cases. Whilst it is possible that the pandemic has been a contributory factor and has raised the profile of mental health generally, cases were on a steady increase before that.
In manufacturing, like other business sectors, employers are recognising the importance of focusing psychosocial risk and supporting employees who are suffering from work-related stress. This can pose some specific challenges in what has, historically, been a male-dominated working environment as men are often less likely to open up about their emotions or admit to being unable to deal with the pressures of work.
Addressing the historical stigma of stress, depression and anxiety is crucial and employers, particularly first line management, can play a significant role in breaking down this stigma.
There is a wealth of resources available to help raise the profile of mental health in the workplace and open up discussion. For example the Working Minds Campaign, provides links to a range of tools to encourage employee engagement including a Talking Toolkit to help managers start discussions in the workplace about work-related stress. Mental Health First Aid England have also made available a Line Manager’s Resource to help first line managers recognise where their staff showing signs of poor mental health are how they can be supported.
One of the positives coming out of the pandemic is that it has driven employee wellbeing up the agenda.
In fact, I have had comments from a number of Make UK member companies that the pandemic has had a positive impact on communication and employee engagement. If we can keep this momentum going then we can reap the benefits including reduced absenteeism and staff turnover and, most importantly, a healthier and happier workforce.
More about Peter
Peter is a Chartered Member of IOSH, with over 25 years’ experience in Health & Safety primarily in manufacturing industry. As an HSS Consultant at Make UK, Peter provides health, safety and environmental advice and support to a wide range of organisations in a variety of sectors. He also has extensive experience in the development and auditing of management systems and has been involved in a number of major projects with international organisations focusing on implementing Zero Harm and cultural change.
More about Make UK
Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, is the representative voice of UK manufacturing, with offices in London, Brussels, every English region and Wales.
Collectively they represent 20,000 companies of all sizes, from start-ups to multinationals, across engineering, manufacturing, technology and the wider industrial sector. They directly represent over 5,000 businesses who are members of Make UK. Everything they do – from providing essential business support and training to championing manufacturing industry in the UK and the EU – is designed to help British manufacturers compete, innovate and grow.
From HR and employment law, health and safety to environmental and productivity improvement, their advice, expertise and influence enables businesses to remain safe, compliant and future-focused.