Health and safety. We often hear about the safety aspect – high-vis jackets, hard hats, sitting upright in your chair… but what about the health element?
Tudor Williams, Director at DTD Training, spoke at the most recent Caerphilly Business Forum breakfast event at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus. He explained just what employers, business leaders and managers needed to know about managing the stress of those within the business.
In opening, Williams referred to figures showing a dramatic fall in health and safety deaths over time – specifically due to greater amounts of safety equipment available, and processes put in place to prevent any unwanted, unsafe behaviours.
The health element, however, he believes is just not spoken about.
Recalling a moment from his early career, a number of miners moved down to his area from further north in Wales. The miners were required to be in the proximity of loud equipment, which ultimately led to hearing loss… and later claims against the company. Health issues and lawsuits that could have been prevented had the appropriate steps been taken.
Stress, Williams claimed, is this generation’s biggest health issue.
Citing figures, Williams advised the Forum that 11.7 million working days were lost because of stress in the UK every year (2015/16). Further, stress was noted to cost the UK £5.2bn annually (2014/15) – equal to 24 lost working days per year per employee.
Compared to the safety considerations, Williams explained, employers struggle with the health element specifically because they cannot quantify it – they can’t put a value on what these issues actually cost them. Problems are masked by higher turnover, higher sick days and a lack of productivity when actually in work.
75% of mental health issues, Tudor confirmed, begin in childhood. Anxiety and depression currently account for one in five lost days.
Williams approached the next slide – Mental Health Care Standards – and explained to the audience what employers need to know. He advised that, under HSE guidelines, employers needed to consider “all risks that might cause harm”.
So how, he posited, does the above policy actually extend to the health, safety and welfare of those involved?
Williams believes it requires a combined approach – collaboration between training leaders to recognise the requirements, with a detailed set of management practices that promote effective people management.
Speaking on how these costs actually manifest in a business, Williams advised the following:
· Employees commitment to work
· Performance & productivity
· Turnover & desire to leave
· Attendance levels
These points, however, are not by necessity a negative. With a positive approach to mental health management, employers can have good relationships with employees – increasing each of the above dramatically. With the opposite in effect, however, the inverse is true.
Internal customer service, according to Williams, is a measurable phenomenon. He looked back at one call centre he worked with. The Sales Director sat across the room from his team of salespeople… but they were forced to bring their own chairs to work due to unusable equipment. Basic health and safety was not being followed. Employees were injuring themselves on broken tiling.
Despite this, the director believed the revolving door of talent would absolve him from responsibility.
In reality, it created a truly toxic culture. One that expanded away from the sales floor and infected the rest of the company.
The end result of not taking stress at work seriously, Williams said, is a higher cost of litigation and, as a result, the insurance premiums required to defend against these claims. He confirmed that: “Tackling stress prevents ill health”, and advised the audience to follow HSE guidance to the letter.