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Published: March, 2015; Vol 11, Num 10

 

Overcoming Stress on the Job

By Emily Smith

Talking about stress on the job can evoke a number of thoughts and emotions. No one wants to point fingers or play the blame game. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) takes a multi-pronged approach to job stress. Individual and situational factors play a modifying role between stressful job conditions and the resulting risk of injury and illness that a worker may experience. Examples of individual factors include physical and mental health, job skill, stress response, attitude and outlook. Examples of situational factors include the physical and mental health of loved ones, geography, living conditions and one’s role in their family, such as childcare and/or caregiving responsibilities.

Stress carries over from work to home and from home to work. That is to be expected. What we can do is try to compartmentalize the stressors: focus on the task at hand while at work and then face the stressor head on once we leave work and are able to devote our full attention to it.

Job Stressors and Solutions

Job stress is defined as the physical and emotional harm that occurs when the requirements of a job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of a Laborer. Unfortunately, we will all encounter on-the-job stress at some point. Stress in the workplace can be hazardous and detrimental, but it can also be prevented and managed.

The construction field as a profession presents many unique situations – multiple contractors working on a project, multiple jobsites, a dynamic workforce and shifting of crews and crafts may all occur. The table below identifies potential on the job stressors and possible solutions from the perspectives of both labor and management.

 

Laborer’s Perspective

Management’s Perspective

Potential on the job stressors

  • Production pressure
  • Scheduling and tight deadlines
  • Overworking to compensate for downtime
  • Inconsistent work and possible financial burden
  • Working on tasks that are too simple or too challenging based on your skills and experience
  • Having too much to do in an allotted time period or not having enough work to fill one’s time
  • Working conditions and environmental factors
  • Travel and/or commute
  • The nature of the work
  • Peer pressure
  • Safety concerns
  • Feeling free to speak up about safety or other jobsite concerns
  • Working with pain
  • Over budget
  • Condensed timeline
  • Multiple contractors on one jobsite
  • Customer/owner demands
  • Rework

 

Possible solutions

  • Engaging in collaborative problem solving with your team
  • Asking clarifying questions where appropriate
  • Receiving management support and commitment
  • Utilizing your available resources, such as your LIUNA Local business manager or business agent, to connect with support services such as Member Assistance Programs
  • Planning ahead and setting reasonable timelines when possible
  • Providing a sense of control to others by seeking input and including all levels of the workforce in the decision-making process
  • Equitably distributing the workload and assigning clearly defined roles
  • Creating a positive and open work environment

Recognizing that some situational factors and job stressors are out of our control, it may be worthwhile to develop positive individual coping skills, effective communication strategies, conflict resolution approaches and organizational changes to improve working conditions. Contact the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America’s Health Promotion Division or Occupational Safety and Health Division at 202-628-5465 to seek further assistance for your stress management and organizational needs.

[Emily Smith is the LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division’s Wellness Coordinator.]