What is required under H&S legislation – the case of occupational stress?

Employers are required under health and safety legislation to prevent and manage psychosocial risks that are found in the workplace.  In practice this means managing occupational stress.

Legislation requires that employers undertake a risk assessment, i.e. the identification of potential hazards that arise from social conditions, the nature of the job and how work is organised; the risks that are associated with these hazards; and then to design and implement a programme of preventive and protective interventions.

These are the same steps that should be taken for any occupational hazard, but on the case of stress at work, the situation may be complicated by the fact that many of the health outcomes of high levels of stress are influenced by factors outside of work. 

The EU has produced an agreed framework for undertaking psychosocial risk assessments in the workplace in the PRIMA-EF project. 

PRIMA-EF framework for psychosocial risk assessment


This sees risk management as a continuous process which contributes to better production and a range of organisational and individual outcomes.

There are a number of tools that can be used to assess the presence of psychosocial risks in the workplace.

In Ireland, Work Positive is the Health and Safety Authority’s programme to prevent and manage stress at work.  It provides a questionnaire based tool and a set of guidelines on how to prevent occupational stress.  Case studies of good practice are also available.

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