ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences
Stress is a build up of tension within an
individual. The person feels pressured or overtaxed because of
demands placed upon them which generally occur over a period of
months or even years. A final breakdown is the result of a steady
erosion of health.128
There are many external factors which
contribute to stress as well as those which are associated with
stress in the workplace. These are family conflict, social
difficulties and problems in the community. In some countries stress
is a recognised occupational hazard.5 129
Factors which contribute to work associated
- role conflict and ambiguity (unclear
job requirements - being given different instructions from
- inadequate support from supervisors
(managers who rarely encourage but are quick to criticise
leading to feelings of inadequacy, lack of appreciation and
- ineffective performance of managers
(lack of consultation on matters which affect staff, care-free
- inadequate performance of
- interpersonal and communication
problems with other personnel.
- conflict with users of the
- over competitive atmosphere.
- too many demands placed on individuals
(lack of resources, unreasonable deadlines, too much
responsibility, decision making without time for thought).
- organisational ineptitude (poor and
poorly maintained equipment, excessive administrative red tape,
poor management-labour relations, poorly defined organisational
- constant minor changes to job duties
(restructuring, demotion, retraining, redeployment).
- monotony, lack of opportunities.
- low salary, low status, low self
Signs of stress may vary from individual to
individual but the most common signs include:
- headaches: tension, migraine.
- bowel problems: constipation,
- stomach problems: ulcers, nausea,
vomiting, indigestion, nervousness.
- eating problems: loss of appetite,
- pain: back pain, neck and shoulders.
- fatigue and weariness: constantly
feeling tired, loss of interest.
- lack of concentration: easily
distracted, becoming obsessive over issues.
- heart problems: palpitations,
- sleep problems: lack of sleep, waking
early, inability to get to sleep, waking throughout the night.
- other health problems: frequent upper
respiratory tract and other infections, shortness of breath.
- emotional instability: depression,
outbursts of anger, frequent change of moods.
- lack of sexual performance and
- drug and alcohol dependence.
- work related problems: low morale,
frequent sick days, lack of desire for work, lateness, leaving
Coping with stress129
MANAGEMENT - GENERAL
- conduct a stress audit along with
- change a work practice to minimise
- change the environment where
- provide education in causes and
management of stress
- create an environment that encourages
- monitor staff mental health
- clearly define work roles and
- identify 'at risk' individuals and
- provide social support (time off for
domestic problems etc)
- ensure that workload is compatible
with capabilities (provide retraining and refresher courses
- allow staff input where decisions are
made which affect them
- try to design rosters and schedules to
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