Columnists Features

Stress linked to occupational hazards

STRESS has been linked more to ill-health effects rather than safety concerns in the workplace.
On the other hand, whether originating within the workplace or outside, it is clear that high levels of stress are likely to be associated with an increase in the frequency of errors and in turn can increase accident risks.

Stress is a common feature of modern life.
In the changing world of work, the economic crisis and recession are making increasing demands on workers. The definition of stress, its causes, symptoms and effects are quite complex.
According to International Labour Organisation, it is now widely acknowledged that work-related stress is very common and that it has a high cost in terms of workers’ health, absenteeism and lower performance.
Further, it is observed that even though stress is not a disease, it is the first sign of a problem. If the body is continuously strained, stress can lead to acute and chronic changes which can provoke long-term damage to body systems.
However, fatalities, accidents and illnesses at work places are highly preventable and everyone has an obligation to act.
In its quest to be more proactive, Workers’ Compensation Fund Control (WCFCB) has a mandate to curry out out site safety inspection visits at various employer sites to educate employers and employees on safety matters.
This function is carried out by the Board’s Occupational Health and Safety Department.
Where an accident has occurred, the Board offers rehabilitation services aimed at returning the injured workers to good health and, where possible, get them back to work.  
Being a statutory body created under the Workers’ Compensation Act No. 10 of 1999 to compensate workers or their dependents for occupational related disabilities, diseases and deaths and to administer a fund from which compensation and operational expenses are defrayed, safety is one of its key area of focus.
Under Part III, Section 11(3) a, b & c of the Act, the Board is mandated among other things for;
.The prevention of accidents or any disease which are due to the nature of any occupation.
.The promotion of the health and safety of workers
-The provision of facilities designed to assist injured or afflicted workers to return to work or reduce or remove any handicap resulting from the injuries or disease
The Board conducts  accident  prevention   programmes at  various work  places  to  help  employers  reduce  the  occurrence  of accidents and diseases.
Current  statistics  show  that there is  an  average  of  1200 accidents  and  diseases are reported to the Board annually for the  purpose  of  settling  compensation  claims  in respect of occupational accidents and diseases.
These  accidents  and  diseases  are  prevalent  in  all  sectors  of  the  economy  with  the  most affected being mining, construction, transport, manufacturing and commerce.
As regards to stress, the Board recognises its link to accidents which is why it has been conducting among other things; accident prevention lectures and seminars, accident prevention inspections and appraisal visits, and establishment of accident prevention committees.
On stress, as WCFCB manager rehabilitation occupational health and safety Chansa Kapema puts it, causes mental fatigue, which causes an employee to become a hazard at his or her workplace as a result of reduced concentration.
Apart from endangering oneself, the worker endangers the lives of co-workers and can cause damage to property.
Accident experience has shown that blue collar workers are prone to industrial accidents (leading to injury or death) when faced with stress whereas white collar workers are more prone to road traffic accidents (RTA’s) as well as burnout and depression.
Without doubt, if not managed, stress may lead to increased accident claims as well as reduced productivity.
This is not good for any economy. Apart from the effects on the injured or diseased worker, accidents bring with them psychosocial effects on the dependent families of workers.
Thus, the link between stress and accidents can never be over emphasised.  
Around the world, safety incidents at work are driven by unaddressed stress, including fear of punishment that may cause numerous accidents and risky behavior. Such behavior is sometimes undertaken to ensure continued employment when an employee is afraid of the consequences for failure to meet a deadline or to deliver a product or service on time
Learning more about stress and its impact on workers is an important objective of good company management in sustaining employee well-being and safe work habits.
Considering how to arrange conditions to accelerate positive performance is not a nice-to-do but a smart-to-do management approach to business success. Top-to-bottom commitment and accountability for creating such conditions leads to extraordinary achievement.
Ultimately, WCFCB is passionate about safety in workplaces.
The author is a Communications Officer at Workers Compensation Fund Control Board.
Phone: 0212621283


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