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The University has an obligation to provide a safe and healthy working environment for all employees; identifying and managing risk is an integral part of this. As far as stress is concerned, this means identifying those jobs which can place individuals at risk, and making sure there are measures in place to control or mitigate the risks so identified. Managers must make sure that this happens within their domain. The key to identifying risk is the process of undertaking risk assessment. It is the first step in the process, and it will not, by itself reduce work-related stress.

Carrying out an assessment

Since risk assessment is an activity based procedure, the initial assessment can be done generically for a group of employees doing similar work. Although account must be taken of people who will be particularly vulnerable (eg. an employee who is new to the work/institution, a pregnant worker or a new mother) it will rarely be necessary to assess an individual employee's risk.

Carrying out a risk assessment for work-related stress involves the same basic principles and process as for other workplace hazards. The person conducting a stress risk assessment will usually be the manager of the workplace in collaboration with the Departmental Safety Officer, who, together, will have familiarity with the risk process. The assessment should include a risk control action plan that identifies both the improvements needed to reduce the risk, and the senior managers commitment to implementation.

Care needs to be taken that solutions to potential work-related problems do not have an adverse impact on others, for example, by merely transferring a high work load to another. A review of the assessment should be initiated when a manager becomes aware of work related stress.

A review of the risk assessment should be initially prompted when a line manager becomes aware of work-related stress in a particular staff group.


The Health and Safety Executive has identified a number of key work-related stressors. An important step in promoting a low-stress working environment is to conduct a risk assessment that takes account of these factors and is regularly reviewed and, as necessary updated:

Job demands: these include workload and exposure to physical hazards
Control: how much influence a person has in the way they do their work
Support: from colleagues and managers, including training to give members of staff the skills to perform their task and whether there are any factors unique to the individual
Relationships: covering issues like bullying and harassment
Job roles: whether the member of staff understands their role in the institution and that the institution ensures that the person does not have conflicting roles
Change: how institutional change is managed and communicated

The culture of the University and how it approaches work related stress is also an important factor:

Evaluating the risk

For each of the factors the following questions should be asked:

  • What action is already being taken?
  • Is it enough?
  • Does any more need to be done?

Managing the risk

Proactive management

The work of the Institution should be examined for the factors across the range of the work done and over time. The objective should be an appraisal of the stress risks to identify the pressures at work that could cause high and long-lasting levels of stress and which employees might be harmed by these. As with any risk assessment the significant findings and control measures proposed should be documented and communicated to those concerned.

Reactive management

Where work-related stress is suspected or identified, managers should seek to identify the reasons for stress and the means for eliminating or minimising it. Having an inclusive consultation process with staff and their representatives is crucial to the appropriate and early identification of the risks associated with work-related stress.

Evaluating risk

For each of the risk factors identified above, managers should consider the relevant personnel policies and procedures and be aware of the support available for staff.

For further information, see Stress Risk Assessment Guidance on the Safety Office Website, including:

  • Guidance on completion of the Stress Risk Assessment
  • Appendix 1: Stress Risk Assessment Guidance: Typical examples of the categories
  • Appendix 2: Stress Risk assessment form
  • Appendix 3: Worked example of a Stress Risk Assessment