Tackle Workplace Stress to Control OHS

Winter has arrived and it seems people all around us are either getting sick or recovering from some sort of flu or cold. It is no different in the workplace and for workers that spend most of their time outdoors it is important to protect one’s health and guard against the common cold and flus.

Although most of us are prepared to do whatever it takes to ward off colds and flus and protect our bodies from the contagious bugs that are so easily spread during this time of year, we often fail to do what it takes to protect our mental wellbeing, although numerous experts can attest that it is equally important to our overall wellbeing.

According to a team of American psychologists from Saint Louis University, stress can actually be contagious, as contagious as a cold, so in a work environment it is important to address issues that contribute to excessive stress.

According to the psychologists stress has become an endemic, particularly in The United States where it affects almost everyone.

The researchers wanted to examine how susceptible perfect strangers were to second hand stress. The following excerpt from an article on Smh.com.au explains how the psychologists went about their study,

To test the theory, they took a group of participants and asked some to perform a public speaking or mental arithmetic challenge while the others observed.

The researchers measured the levels of cortisol and a stress-related salivary enzyme in the stressed speakers and the observers.

They found that the stress response in the witnesses was “proportional to that of their paired speakers and not influenced by gender”.

Stress can be passed on through things like tone of voice, facial expressions, posture and even odour.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/stress-is-contagious-us-study-reveals-20140630-zsr8p.html

If stress is contagious, it is even more reason for employers and managers to assist workers who are struggling with this issue in the workplace because the more it is allowed to fester, the more it will grow and spread to others in the workplace. Before long we could end up with an entirely stressed out workforce, affecting morale on site and negatively impacting productivity.

Also keep in mind that stress affects our physical health because experts say people who are under emotional stress are more likely to become sick physically. During colds and flu season, people who are emotionally stressed seem to have a lower immune system and succumb to sickness more than those who are emotionally healthy.

Within a construction environment, or in fact any high risk work environment, stress can also contribute to a reduction in workplace safety as workers aren’t as alert while stressed as they normally would be.

Employers should also consider that following an accident or near miss (or any emergency on a work site), workers need to be counselled and assisted to mentally and emotionally overcome the situation because stress has the ability to resonate even after a tense experience has taken place. The article on Smh.com.au goes on to explain the findings of another study which explains:

A separate, small-scale study by the University of California, in collaboration with New York University, found that stress can resonate even in the aftermath of a tense experience.

The researchers separated a group of mothers from their babies for a short period. The mothers were then divided into groups and asked to give an impromptu speech to a panel, who watched passively, with positive facial expressions or whilst scowling.

The babies were then reunited with their mothers and both their heart rates were measured. It was found that the baby’s heart rates mirrored that of their mother.

“The greater the mother’s stress response, the greater the infant’s stress response – an association that actually became stronger over time,” the authors said.

Read more at: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/stress-is-contagious-us-study-reveals-20140630-zsr8p.html

Posted by Construction Safety News Admin
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