The project arose when the BP Applied Technology (AT) Group was preparing to commission an extension to a demonstration plant at the BP Grangemouth complex. This involved expanding the operator team from five to 15 and bringing in new, less experienced staff. The AT project team, knowing full well the intensive nature of plant commissioning, had already taken steps to eliminate physical hazards and improve their safety culture. They now set about taking action to prevent avoidable stress by identifying and mitigating any work-related sources of stress arising from the commissioning project.
An eight strong multi-disciplinary team was formed. After an initial meeting with one of the Keil Centre's Chartered Psychologists to discuss stress causes, signs and symptoms, the team brainstormed all the likely sources of stress that might arise from the commissioning project. A list of stressors was compiled and prioritised and eventually sorted into a set of "top five" stressors most likely to have an impact on individuals. Examples included high workload, demands from others for unnecessary detail and pressure from senior managers.
The team then worked together to complete the risk assessment process. They identified how or why each stressor caused harm, and shared ideas about organisational and individual actions could be taken to mitigate the effects of the top five stressors. Relevant practical control measures were then implemented.
A phrase was coined which became the team's watchword for dealing with unnecessary detail, one of the biggest identified stressor. This phrase - "the minimum requirements" - has now been adopted by all team members to challenge others on the level of detail and deadlines attached towards requests.
Said David Wilson, Project Manager, "Framing stressors as a hazard to be controlled, just like the more familiar process and chemical hazards, was a logical extension to existing risk assessment processes, and opened a mature debate about otherwise delicate topics such as the effect of management style on others. Managing stress at work is complementary to managing other important aspects of the business such as performance and safety."
"The project normalised discussion of stress and stressors amongst the team, and facilitated team spirit and open communication," he continued. "Since the stress prevention project, the AT project team have had an excellent health and safety record, with no stress-related absence."
The stress prevention method used at BP has been combined into web-enabled tools and standards that are being rolled out by BP worldwide and which are available to other organisations via www.stresstools.com. The project, a partnership between an occupational psychology firm and a BP applied psychology team, won a prestigious European Good Practice Award presented to David Wilson at the Queggenheim Museum in Bilbao.