The Management Standards and the five steps to risk assessment by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide a clear step-by-step approach.
The TUC has also produced a guide to the Management Standards for safety reps.
The first practical step for an organisation setting out to tackle workplace stress is to set up a group to oversee the stress risk assessment process. Management, union reps, HR and occupational health specialists should all be involved.
- Make sure you set a realistic timeframe. Stress cannot be dealt with overnight. Instead it will be a long process, for which reps will need to agree enough time off.
- Make sure you have a clear commitment from the top of the organisation.
- Make sure everyone on the group gets proper training.
- A good communications strategy is also important. Keep the workforce involved and informed at every stage.
- Start by gathering information on the current state of the organisation. You can use the HSE's questionnaire PDF (called an indicator tool) based on the Management Standards. Unions can also do their own surveys locally to identify stress hot spots and their causes. The TUC has devised a simple Stress MOT.
The next step is the risk assessment process, which is the same as for any other risk:
Step 1: Identify the hazards, referring to the Management Standards.
Step 2: Identify those at risk and how they are at risk.
Step 3: Evaluate the risk and take action.
Step 4: Record your findings and develop an action plan.
Step 5: Monitor the action plan and review its effectiveness.
There is a range of downloads on the HSE website to help with this process, with examples of stress policies and guidance through each of the five steps.
The employer is responsible for carrying out the risk assessment, but it should consult Union Safety Reps at every stage.