Employers have a legal duty to their employees to take reasonable care for their safety at work. Up to the beginning of the 1990s, this duty almost exclusively concerned physical injuries. Since then, the law has developed to include a duty to take reasonable care for their safety from mental, psychological or psychiatric injuries that emanate from workplace stress. The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 defines personal injury as any disease or impairment of a person’s physical or mental condition. Therefore it forms part of an employer’s duty of care to prevent such an injury.
According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, a hazard can include “methods of work and other aspects of work organisation”. Therefore, work methods or workloads which may impose levels of stress that are potentially harmful to employees, and to others who may be undertaking them, must be identified. Risk assessments for stress need to take into account workloads and methods of work which place employees under undue levels of stress which could lead to mental or physical ill health.
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