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Under pressure – managing stress in the electrical industry

Carly Wills, Editor


Tags: Health & Safety

Topics: Health & Safety, Safety in Engineering

Life as an electrical contractor, consultant or panel builder can be challenging. In a competitive industry where margins are often tight, work related stress is increasingly common, says Stewart Gregory, VP of Power Products at Schneider Electric.

Mistakes, miscalculations and delays will inevitably occur, and time being unable to work can add to pressures. Unfortunately, stress is a major part of the job, but keeping it under check is crucial to performance, physical health and work-life balance.

Despite an increasing awareness of mental health issues in the electrical industry, much more can be done to support professionals working in this high pressure industry. 

The impacts of stress

Roles in the electrical supply chain can be stressful. Whether the worker is an installer or consultant, a lot of travel, significant stretches of time working away from home, long hours and tight deadlines are to be expected. 

To some extent, a degree of stress is inevitable in every job. Yet, it’s when stress is ignored or goes untreated that it grows. If left unchecked, stress can lead to anxiety, depression and even death. Suicide rates among skilled tradespeople are sobering, almost 40 per cent above the national average. Male suicide victims in this group account for 29 per cent of all male suicides in the UK.

Research shows that stressed workers are more likely to make mistakes on the job, impacting decision making and productivity. In the electrical trade this can be a major barrier to success, only exacerbating professional frustrations and feelings of self-doubt.  

Seeking out support 

While mental health awareness is growing every day, it sadly remains taboo in the industry. Many work in small teams, and while this comradery can alleviate feelings of stress it can also make individuals more embarrassed to admit they need help. Ninety-five per cent admit to lying about how they are feeling and not sharing when they are struggling.

The internal welfare and support structures found in other industries are often absent or unavailable to electrical professionals, but support networks are out there. The Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) group helps electrical professionals at every stage of their career development. The EIC aims to provide electrical professionals with the tools they need to be happy and productive, including support, materials and counselling that’s available to them and their families. Through free workplace programmes, the group is able to provide scholarships and grants to help mitigate many of the common financial pressures that cause stress in the industry.

It’s likely that everybody will feel stressed at some point in their lives. What is crucially important is that there are is a culture of openness to discuss and manage it. Mental health issues need to be tackled as a collective. Support networks like EIC are there for advice and financial support for professionals in the electrical industry. Stress is part of life, but it doesn’t have to be life changing. 

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