Over the past 15 years we have worked closely with builders merchants, nationwide and been the immediate point of contact for all queries relating to health and safety, and all workplace accidents and incidents. Regrettably, this includes distress calls when managers of builders merchants have been witness to staff suicide whilst at work or been informed of a staff suicide outside of work. Often being completely unaware that the employee was suffering with a mental health condition. Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence, but modern-day management are becoming increasingly aware of the growing problem of mental health in the workplace and the need to evaluate the stresses that employees are subject to whilst at work. 


The latest HSE statistics reveal that 1.4 million working people are suffering from work-related ill health, and 26.8 million working days are lost due to work-related ill health. As you can see below the highest percentage of new and long-standing cases of ill health and working days lost by type of ill health is attributable to stress, depression or anxiety. 

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How does the law apply to stress? 

All employers have a general duty to look after the welfare of employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974and to assess and manage risk to their staff under Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999’. This includes assessing and minimising the risk of stress-related illness. 

Work-related stress is defined as:

 “A harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands in the workplace.”

Are there any signs of stress in your Builders Merchant?

Employee stress is not only detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the person experiencing it but can seriously affect their performance at work and their relations with colleagues. The effects of stress can also become extremely dangerous when ongoing, leading to physical symptoms such as heart disease, or even causing long-term psychological damage. 

Despite some signs of stress being more obvious than other illnesses, stress at work is not always treated, nor taken seriously. Consider noise-induced hearing loss, for example.  This may develop very gradually over time and can therefore sometimes be almost unnoticeable, but despite this, it is treated as a serious health hazard and preventative measures are implemented.

Signs of stress, on the other hand, may include very noticeable, almost immediate changes in behavior but are often not treated at all. As an employer or builders merchant manager, the following signs may indicate that staff are suffering from stress:

  • Sudden changes in behavior.
  • Irritability or frequent mood swings.
  • Extreme indecisiveness.
  • Unusually poor timekeeping.
  • Lack of self-confidence.
  • Tearfulness.
How to tackle stress in your builders’ merchant?

Knowing what you can do as an employer to tackle work-related mental health issues can be tough. However, the HSE has produced ‘Management Standards for Work-Related Stressto help. This sets out 6 key areas to look at:

  1. Demand – What is staff workload like? What are their working patterns – shifts, early starts or late finishes? What is their work environment – lone working, risk of exposure to violence or aggression through money handling or direct public confrontation, or working in weather extremes? Review these areas and look for solutions that could be implemented.  Monitor sickness absence to look for patterns and ensure full holiday entitlement is taken.
  2. Control – Have your employees got a say in how they do their job? Can you involve them or consult with them? Consulting on uniform or PPE purchase, to ensure a good fit, as a minimum.
  3. Support – Do staff feel comfortable speaking to management about any concerns?  Management should be approachable with an ‘open door policy’ for staff to report concerns.
  4. Relationships – Does your workplace promote positive working with a clear anti-bullying or anti-harassment message?
  5. Role – Do employees have clearly defined job roles and responsibilities? Staff should be appointed in job roles suitable to their training and experience.
  6. Change – Changes in business ownership, management, staffing changes or redundancies can unsettle an otherwise content workforce. Correct management and communication of change is important to reassure staff. 

In order to keep your staff healthy, in line with an employer’s duty of care, you should keep an eye out for signs of stress. When signs are spotted it is important to take steps to be supportive and put in place measures to help reduce these stress levels as soon as possible. 

Mental Health Awareness Training

The eagerly awaited ‘Mental Health Awareness’ e-learning training, for both employees and managers, is now available on Safety Cloud – offering a cost-effective way to promote mental wellbeing in your organisation. Train your staff in the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health, how to manage it and well-being balance with signposting for further help.