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The Times, 'Stay Cool': Stress among children - Timothy Walker, HSE's Director-General responds

From the Director General of the Health and Safety Executive

Sir, the title (Stay Cool) of your leader yesterday on stress among children, fits well with any level-headed approach to managing stress at work of the sort that we at the Health and Safety Executive are promoting. We can live with scepticism about our draft management standards; they are still under development, and a number of large companies have asked to pilot them.

The important thing is to be clear what we mean by 'stress'. Your leader uses the term interchangeably with 'pressure'. We do not. We agree that pressure can be a good thing. But excess pressure can result in an adverse reaction, and this is what we call 'stress'. It is never a force for good.

HSE research shows that stress is not an illusion, either; it is a costly reality. I am sure that many of your readers working in management structures and in teaching, transport and health services, to name but a few areas of work, will have seen what can happen when pressures are not sensibly managed and become too great.

Yours faithfully
Timothy Walker
Director General, Health and Safety Executive
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge Road
London SE1 9HS
February 27

Updated 2013-01-23