Out-Law News 2 min. read

HSE mental health campaign to focus on UK’s automotive sector

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has called on employers in the automotive industry to address work-related stress routinely and as an important part of their risk assessment, following research revealing that one in two workers in the sector have struggled with their mental health and wellbeing.

The HSE has joined forces with several motor trade organisations to tackle work-related stress in the motor repair trade. The move is part of the regulator’s ongoing Working Minds campaign, which aims to help businesses recognise the signs of work-related stress and make tackling issues routine.

The joint effort was formed after a charity organisation named Ben found that an alarmingly high rate of workers - one in two - in the automotive sector have struggled with their mental health and wellbeing in the past 12 months. It highlighted that stress is the most common issue, followed by anxiety and poor sleep.

Ben, a charity that supports people who work or have worked in the automotive industry, has also seen a 190% rise in people using their benefits counselling service and accessing their financial guidance over the past 12 months. The charity recognised that financial issues caused by an increase in bills, particularly during the winter months, can also lead to poor mental health.

“It’s really important for employers to understand that all areas of a person’s life impact health and wellbeing. Work is a big part of life so it’s important to make people feel like they matter, are heard and feel supported,” said Ellen Plumer, head of outreach, health and wellbeing at Ben.

The charity’s research reflects the trend identified by HSE’s own statistics, which were published in November 2022. According to the HSE’s figures, poor mental health is the number one reason for work-related illness in the UK and the number of cases is fast growing. Out of an estimated 1.8 million cases of work-related ill health in 2021-22, more than 900,000 were due to work related stress, depression and anxiety. Cases concerning work related stress, depression and anxiety increased by 11.2% over the previous year.

The regulator also found that those who work in motor vehicle repairs, the wholesale and retail trade had a significantly higher workplace injury rate in 2021-22 compared to most industries.

In a bid to address growing concerns over mental health issues in the automotive sector, the HSE has teamed up with Working Minds campaign partners Ben, the National Body Repair Association (NBRA), the commercial Vehicle Body Repair Association (VBRA) and the Independent Garage Association (IGA) to promote ways to prevent work-related stress and support good mental health across the sector.

Head of HSE’s work-related stress and mental health policy team Liz Goodwill said that the regulator is calling on employers in the automotive industry to ensure that recognising and responding to the signs of stress becomes as routine as managing workplace safety. She suggested that bosses in the automotive industry should hold regular catch-ups with workers and their teams.

In light of the latest mental health campaign focusing on the automobile sector, legal expert Kevin Bridges of Pinsent Masons urged employers in the sector to regularly update their risk assessments.

“Risk assessments must take account of a particular worker’s needs. Additional stress due to the cost of living crises will play in to that. Anxiety about that is likely to fuel work stresses, concerns about redundancy and other related issues, so it should be taken into account.  Employers should take note that risk assessments must be regularly updated to take account of changing circumstances,” he said.

Earlier this year, the HSE announced its new strategy for the next decade, which will see the regulator focus its resources on ensuring businesses meet their obligations on both mental health and building safety over the next decade. It is a step up in its effort to bring a culture change across Britain’s workplaces to ensure psychological risks are treated in the same way as physical risks in health and safety risk management.

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