Susanna Basile clinical psychologist and sexologist. I deal with psychological syndromes; specific phobic disorders; psychophysical, emotional, sexual and food addictions; addictions to both behaviors and substances; psychosomatic disorders; psychophysical trauma and panic attacks.
Starting from January 2011 it is mandatory for Italian companies to carry out the Assessment of Related Work Stress.
It had already been anticipated in Legislative Decree 81/08 (art 28 c1 bis ex Legislative Decree 106/09) which explicitly referred to the 2004 European agreement signed by the four major European organizations (CEEP, UEAPME, UNICE and ETUC). whose contents were aimed at the study definition of the prevention criteria of this risk.
The Permanent Advisory Commission expressed itself, through the circular of 18 November 2010, on the timescales to be respected, imposing, among others, the obligation for employers to repeat the assessment with a frequency of not less than three years, except that the results of previous evaluations do not indicate situations of hardship that lead to adopt more restrictive measures and shorter timescales.
As mentioned, even at the European Community level, there is a great deal of attention on emerging risks, in particular with the development of surveys aimed not only at identifying and monitoring the situation and the discomforts deriving from psychosocial risks such as Stress, violence and harassment; but also to provide useful tools for the assessment and adoption of adequate preventive and / or corrective therapeutic measures, see in this regard the Esener Enterprise Survey / EU-OSHA.
The sanctions imposed on the employer or manager in case of failure to assess the Related Work Stress are the following:
For failure to draft the DVR, violation of Art. 29, c.1, arrest from 3 to 6 months or fine from € 2,500 to € 6,400;
A fine ranging from € 2,000 to € 4,000 is envisaged for incomplete drafting of the DVR with failure to indicate the measures deemed appropriate to ensure the improvement of safety levels over time.
Before going into the details of the work-related stress risk assessment, let’s recall some definitions to better understand the topic.
Stress is defined as that state, which is accompanied by physical, psychological or social discomfort and dysfunctions that result from the fact that people do not feel able to overcome the gaps with respect to requests or expectations towards them. In general terms, therefore, it is important to underline that Stress is not a disease in itself, but a condition triggered in the human body by an external source or solicitation that involves a series of adaptations which, if prolonged over time, can take on character. of pathology.
By transferring the general concept to the workplace, we can therefore define Work Related Stress, as the perception of imbalance felt by the worker when the demands of the content, organization and work environment exceed the individual capacity to cope with such demands. [European Agency for Safety and Health at Work]. There is stress, at acceptable doses, which has positive effects on our body, allowing us to react effectively and efficiently to external stimuli and to trigger an adequate threshold of attention towards the needs of the environment; Prolonged exposure to stress factors, on the other hand, can be a source of risk for the health of the individual, both psychological and physical, reducing efficiency at work (absenteeism, illness, requests for transfers …).
It is important to underline and distinguish the concept of Work-Related Stress, from that of Mobbing understood as a systematic persecution carried out by one or more people in order to harm those who are victims of it up to the loss of work. Therefore, if the possible risks, especially at the psychological level, highlighted by the symptomatic indicators that we will see below, may be similar, in Stress the intentional component that is instead present in bullying is missing.
A second distinction worth remembering is that relating to the phenomenon known as Burn-Out defined as: the pathological outcome of a stress-inducing process that affects people who practice helping professions, if they do not respond adequately to excessive stress loads. that their work leads them to hire. This phenomenon, therefore, already known since the 1970s, is the pathological result of a component of stress factors and subjective reactions that affects only those professions aimed at helping other people (doctors, nurses, lawyers, priests …) and that brings the subject to “getting burned” through a mechanism of excessive identification with the individuals who are the object of the professional activity, taking responsibility for their problems in the first person and therefore unable to discern between their life and their own.
The risk assessment process starts from identifying the sources of stress in the workplace, through the use of appropriate indicators divided between those relating to the work context and those related to the actual content of the work.
Among the former, the areas linked to culture and organizational function (problems related to communication, low levels of support and absence of professional goals), ambiguities in the definition of professional career and role within the company; a lack of independence in relation to assigned responsibilities and difficulties in managing interpersonal relationships in the workplace.
As for the content of work, the sources of stress can derive from particularly heavy working hours, including for example on shifts, excessive workloads, inadequate work organization with respect to professional skills, and finally (but not least ) to infrastructural deficiencies in the workplace, such as poor lighting, uncomfortable temperatures, poor hygiene conditions, insufficient spaces.
Some of the professional categories most affected by Work-Related Stress will be the following where the main and potential sources of stress are listed:
Doctors: subjected to strong responsibilities related to any wrong decisions that can have serious effects on people’s health;
Nurses: high risk of the Burn-Out phenomenon as an etiological cause of work-related stress;
Police: above all operational personnel exposed to daily risks of aggression and exposed to situations of social hardship with potentially very significant psychological impact;
Social Workers: in this profession too, the risk of BurnOut syndrome is high, associated with exposure to phenomena of social and family discomfort; hence the feeling of feeling ineffective;
Teachers: strong exposure to stress from the generation gap, with difficulty in relating to a high and heterogeneous number of young students;
Road hauliers: stress related to particularly difficult working conditions, working hours, distance from home, responsibility in respect of deadlines (especially for individuals).
The checklists that have been produced, at the moment, various guidelines for the company assessment of the risk associated with Stress Work Related. It is important first of all to highlight how the assessment should not be an individual measure, which therefore seeks out stressful situations in individual people, and reflects a situation of the various company departments in order to reflect any situations of unease localized by areas or departments.
The aforementioned guidelines suggest the use, as the first evaluation phase, of questionnaires or check-lists, to be administered to a statistically valid sample of the company population, with the aim of identifying the areas potentially subject to risk on which to focus for actions. for further analysis or correction.