Stress and mental ill health

Decades of poor management practices in the energy sector have resulted in a steady deterioration of working conditions, with employees facing increasing workloads, long working hours and workplace bullying and harassment. All of this has led to a mounting problem with stress.

Recent Prospect research has highlighted the depth of the problem. Our survey revealed that more than one in five (22%) members working in electricity supply feel overwhelmed or highly stressed most of the time or every day. A further 47% said they feel this way some of the time. Two in three members said their typical workload was heavy or extremely heavy.

This is borne out by research carried out in the 2019 Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), which examined the role of Senior Authorised Persons (SAPs) and Competent Persons (CPs) in the electricity networks. The report highlighted excessive workloads and understaffing as key barriers to SAPs and CPs performing their roles safely and effectively.

As well as being physically and psychologically harmful, stress affects how people behave and the decisions they make, potentially increasing the risk of accidents.

While employers are the sector increasingly recognise the toll that stress has on staff health, safety, attendance, morale and service delivery, too few have implemented sustainable solutions that get to the root of the problem.

We continue to press employers at a national and company level to implement tried and tested approaches to tackling stress, such as the HSE Management Standards. The sector strategy, Powering Improvement, has agreed that employers will implement the Management Standards or a similar approach through to 2025.