Human factors briefing note no. 19 – Pressure and stress

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  • Published: July 2011
  • REF/ISBN:
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Status: New

This document is freely available to all registered users of this site.

We all enjoy a little pressure; this is motivating and can help us give our best. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as: “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them”. Anyone can experience stress; this is not a personal weakness even though individuals react differently to stress – some are more resistant to stress or better able to cope than others.

Why pressure and stress?

Our life and our work provides us with interesting challenges, opportunities to meet people and use our skills. This is all good for us and helps keep us psychologically healthy. However, when there are too many demands on us, or when we have to face difficulties at work and/or problems at home, we can start to feel unable to cope. This can affect performance and, clearly, for anyone working in a major hazards environment, any negative impact on performance can have farreaching, even devastating, consequences.

When we feel under stress, our performance is negatively affected and, in the long-term, our physical and mental health can deteriorate too. In the UK, stress is a major cause of absence and is often not recognised early enough and not dealt with effectively.

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