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Stress is a familiar reaction for workers in all industries especially those whose work demands exceed their capabilities or resources. This heavy demand impacts workers physically, mentally and emotionally. For construction workers, a vital part of maintaining their health and safety is being able to effectively manage their stress because a failure to do so may result in costly and life threatening consequences.
Imagine a crane operator being mentally affected by stress to the extent that they are not able to concentrate on the task at hand? This could result in devastating consequences. Or picture a worker responsible for drilling or concrete cutting who is not physically capable of handling the equipment? These are just two of the multitude of incidents that could occur. It is evident that properly managing stress is crucial. A little bit of stress is not a bad thing and can in fact bring out the best in some workers who work best under pressure but too much stress, if not properly channelled can be disastrous.
Most people adjust to stress and are able to continue to perform their normalwork duties. When stress becomes excessive and long lasting it often leads to both problems in mental and physical health.
Although employers are not responsible for workers person lives and the causes of stress that originate there, they do have an obligation to minimise their exposure to work-relatedfactors that can increase the risk of stress.
Employers should attempt to eliminate or minimise the risk of stress as much as possible and protect workers from the effects of stress at work.
Employers can begin to tackle the causes of stress by first identifying what organisational, environmental and individual factors lead to stress in workers.
Organisational factors may vary depending on the business and the workers job description. Environmental factors that may contribute to stress include physical, chemical orbiological agents can influence the worker’s comfort andperformance in his or her work environment such as noise, temperature, humidity, bad air quality etc, these can be managed and minimised by employers.
Other factors that influence a person’s stress threshold are physiological and depend on a person’s personality factors such as tolerance, resilience, patience etc. Therefore everyone reacts differently to stress.
The best situation for worker well-being is a combination of a challenging but supportive working environment and adequate resources to perform the tasks.
Some of the outcomes of excessive exposure to stress include negative health effects, reduced job performance, neglect of safety etc.
Some of the effects of a person’s health include: headaches, indigestion, tiredness, slow reactions and shortness of breath while other mental effects can also result such as indecisiveness, forgetfulness, irritability, excess worrying, anxiety, defensiveness, anger and mood swings. These side effects have implications for almost every area of a person’s life including diminished performance, withdrawalbehaviours, impulsive behaviour, an increase inalcohol and nicotine consumption, cardiovascular disease, immune deficiency disorders,gastrointestinal disorders, psychiatric/psychological illnessand musculoskeletal disorders.
Employers have more motivation to tackle worker stress than just legal obligation. Increased stress levels can affect a workers ability to be productive and can result in diminished organisational performance:
- reduced productivity and efficiency (particularly dangerous in high risk industries such as construction)
- Reduction in job satisfaction, morale and cohesion
- An increase in absenteeism and sickness absence
- Increased in staff turnover
- Decline in site safety and increase in accidents and injuries
Some practical ways of dealing with stress include:
1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.
Once you do this you can attempt to eliminate or minimise the cause of the stress. Identify what is stressing you out so that you can manage this stress.
2. Consider what you can control and work on that.
The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail since it’s beyond your control you become even more stressed. Do only what’s within your power to do.
3. Do what you love.
Although it may be difficult to figure out what you’re best at, once you figure out what you love to do and pursue a career in that, it will eliminate a lot of the stress associated with doing a job you hate. Since you spend most of your time at work, doing a job just for the paycheck can be a bad life decision which you will regret later.
4. Manage your time well.
A lot of the stress associated with work is due to people having too much work and not enough time to do it. Organise your time and stick to your schedule.
Also get enough sleep because a lack of sleep can cause increased stress and vice versa stress can affect sleep patterns and cause insomnia. It can be a vicious circle.
Determine what is a priority and do this first, other things should be placed on the back burner.