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Don’t Blow Your Lid: How Stress Impacts Workplace Safety

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Overworked. Angry. Stressed.

Pick a construction stereotype, and most of them only scratch the surface of what’s really going on inside a worker’s mind. As one of the most stressful job industries in the country, it’s no surprise that workers can feel long term stress. But how, and more importantly, can worker stress impact the jobsite as a whole? The short answer is yes, but the scope is greater than ‘a bad day’.

The Origins of Stress

It’s important to note that stress can come from anywhere, even beyond a workplace. For example, some workers carry stress to their jobs from home. On the other hand, some workers can lug their work stress home in reverse. In fact, workers can even become stressed mid-shift.

Regardless of where the stress comes from, all workers can experience it. And guess what? A stressed worker has the prime potential to be an unsafe worker.

A Stressed Worker: Symptoms And Behaviors

A worker under stress can undergo significant changes in the body. Physically, the heart rate increases, headaches could occur, and there’s a higher risk of an upset stomach and/or a weakened immune system. Some mental stress symptoms include fatigue, lack of focus, irritability, ringing in the ears…you get the drill.

And if you’ve ever come to work sick or angry, or have seen someone who’s not having the best day, then you know exactly what can happen to them and their colleagues.

The Personal and Professional Risks

According to Safety + Health Magazine, stress can also factor an increase in workplace accidents. The medical director of the Stanford Center on Stress and Health, Dr. David Spiegel, said that there is “a direct correlation between an increase in work stress and an increase in workplace accidents” in said article.

“It’s very clear that a big proportion of safety problems are due to human error, and some of that is related to stress,” Spiegel said.

To add to that, the article in Safety + Health magazine speculated some of this can be related to stress coping mechanisms. One method, in particular, is drug use. Specifically, drug use to combat stress can range from over the counter medications, to alcoholic drinking, and even to excessive use and dependence on hard opioids and narcotics, of which the latter is a massive problem in the construction industry.

Other unhealthy methods of stress relief can be personal harm, aggressive behavior, and a lack of attention or respect of authority.

What You Can Do To Help

In the face of Stress Awareness Month, you shouldn’t let things like stress management or recognition of suspicious or concerning behavior be a low priority.

Take, and encourage others to enroll in a Drug & Alcohol Awareness Course to catch the early signs of stress, depression, or drug use in the workplace. Maintain a positive work environment, and mitigate stressful situations quickly and effectively. If it can’t be settled on the job, know the programs and aid to help your team or yourself outside of work.

Communicate with your fellow workers: you don’t have to be friends to know if something’s wrong. And if it’s a serious concern, bring it up to your boss or address your colleague in a polite, but problem-solving manner.

Remember that everyone can have a stressful time, but most situations can be prevented with proper preparation and reception to the problem. Even stress.