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Hostile managers blamed for Environment Agency stress record

A HOSTILE management culture is a major cause of stress at the Environment Agency's Leeds laboratory, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) said this week.

HSE inspector Paul Robinson has urged the Agency to monitor sickness absence records that could indicate high stress levels, and start carrying out anonymous surveys of the staff.

Robinson made the recommendation in a letter to the Agency's national laboratory service manager Malcom Cooper.

Following an investigation the HSE found that 'management culture and relationships were particular stressors' at the laboratory, which has been hit by allegations of bullying management and claims of staff suffering from stress (NCE 10 August 2000).

'There still appear to be residual problems with relationships between certain employees and some middle managers, ' states the letter.

'You need to assess the risks which employees are exposed to in order to ensure their health at work. This requires you to identify causes of work related ill health and then take any further preventative measures.'

Occupational health specialists should become more involved in helping traumatised staff at the laboratory, says the letter.

'This could involve a doctor specially visiting [Agency laboratory] Olympia House to advise on management and where necessary see individual persons, and liaise with other medical carers, ' it continues.

The Leeds office will provide an early challenge for the Environment Agency's new stress supremo, who was due to be appointed this week on an internal appointment.

Charged with carrying out a stress management policy, they will be told to deliver a more open culture of communication between management and staff and organise training in how to manage stressed staff.

The Agency has already offered stress counselling to staff involved with flood management. They have spent the last five months working flat out after the worst floods for 400 years. Around 70 flood managers in Leeds were invited to a special session to help people spot signs of stress and how to tackle it.

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