Stress as a Causal Factor for Mishaps

For a long time, medical and occupational professionals did not consider stress to be a medical condition or a risk management issue. But now, times have changed. Many organizations, including the United States Coast Guard and the United States Navy now consider stress as a causal factor for mishaps on the job.

The Coast Guard define mishap as “Any unplanned, unexpected or undesirable event causing injury, occupational illness, death, or property damage/loss” and “Injury or Illnesses which result in any of the following: death, days away from work, restricted duty, transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness” (“Chapter Three”). Basically, the higher the stress level of the employees, the higher the rate of mishaps. It does not really matter the type of stress as an indicator of mishaps, but the way the stress is or is not treated.

Unhandled stress can manifest itself in several ways, according to the United States Military. First, stress produces adrenaline, which makes the person feel immune to harm and thus more prone to taking unnecessary and dangerous risks. In addition, stress causes a person to lose his temper much more easily which may manifest as things like road rage or increased fighting. This temper can be fueled by alcohol or drug use and abuse which many people turn to as a means to manage stress. This substance abuse can, in turn, cause mishaps.

In some people, stress can interfere with an individual’s sleep patterns. This can lead to fatigue on the job which can lead to accidents. Similarly, a person that is preoccupied with stress may pay less attention to his job which can lead to “costly, life-threatening mistakes” ( “s Stresses Rise…”). Stress can certainly cause mistakes to occur in the workplace, whether that workplace be a retail store or the frontline in Iraq. Without proper stress management awareness, these mishaps will continue to accumulate.


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