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Temporary, extended or permanent incapacity for work as a result of sickness or infirmity. (European Foundation, 2007).



Burnout refers to a sense of having no energy or commitment for work. It is a debilitating condition and often builds up over time but its effects can manifest suddenly - as the name suggests, it’s a state of ‘after the fact’ energy/enthusiasm eradication. It results from a build-up of challenges which have not been overcome and leaves the person depleted. It is accompanied by feelings of powerlessness, cynicism and fatigue/exhaustion (HSA).


Chronic stress

Chronic stress - although the initial stress response is normal, if it remains active over a long period as a result of chronic stress, it can drain your physical and mental resources. This can lead to ill-health or extreme and lasting exhaustion (burnout) (HSE, 2012).


Critical Incident

An event out of the range of normal experience – one which is sudden and unexpected, makes you lose control, involves the perception of a threat to life and can include elements of physical and emotional loss (WHO, 2006).


Critical Incident Stress (CIS)

The stress reaction of a person or a group to a Critical Incident (or CI) and is characterised by a wide range of cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioural signs and symptoms which are likely to diminish over time (Lavan & McManamly, 2003).


Psychological Distress

Psychological distress refers to the negative feelings (such as anxiety, anger, depression, or frustration) that individuals may experience in response to pressures or demands. (HSE UK, 2007).


EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)

EAP focuses on the provision of counselling and employee assistance programmes in order to assist employees who feel a need for extra support, other than that contained in the human resource function. (HSA, 2009).



Anything with the potential to cause injury or ill-health including physical or mental ill-health. Hazard identification is the process of finding, listing, and characterising the hazards that are specific to the work tasks being assessed (HSA, 2016).


Job satisfaction

The degree to which an individual derives satisfaction from the performance of their work and the work experience (Comcare, 2008).


Post-traumatic stress

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a delayed response to an acute stressful and life threatening event or situation, such as witnessing a violent act (HSE, 2012).


Primary prevention

Focuses on stress prevention activity ‘at source’, in order to prevent it occurring. It usually involves addressing work-related hazards and the sources of harm (e.g. changes to organisational culture, workload, job redesign) (HSA, 2012).



A term which recognises that although a person may be present in the workplace they may be unproductive due to low morale, or be too sick, distressed or distracted to work effectively. A form of ‘withdrawal’ behaviour (BSI, 2011).


Psychological injury

‘Psychological injury’ is the form of injury generally associated generally associated with stress. The medical conditions included in this term include depression, anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (Comcare, 2008). These are clearly defined diagnoses and require appropriate clinical assessment and intervention.


Psychosocial hazards

The interactions of:  1) job content, work organisation and management, and other environmental and organisational conditions, and 2) employees' competencies and needs. Whereby the above interactions have a hazardous influence over employees' health through their perceptions and experience (ILO, 1986).



The likelihood, great or small, that someone will be harmed by the hazard, together with the severity of harm suffered. Risk also depends on the number of people exposed to the hazard (HSA, 2006).


Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment is a careful examination of what, in the workplace, could cause harm to people, so that the employer can weigh up whether he or she has taken enough precautions or should do more to prevent harm (HSA, 2006).


Secondary prevention

Focuses on prevention activity for employees by minimising the adverse effects of a hazard. It includes training for the job, training in general aspects of health and safety, training in coping strategies and support offered through the provision of adequate management of the social and technical aspects of an employee’s working life (i.e. identifying and assisting employees exhibiting the early warning signs of stress and providing EAPs). This good management practice has a role both in preventing stress and helping stressed employees to recover (HSA, 2012).



Stress is a mental and physical condition which results from pressure or demands that strain or exceed your capacity or perceived capacity to cope  (HSE, 2012).


Tertiary prevention

Focuses on the provision of staff supports such as counselling, employee assistance programmes (EAPs), occupational health or outsourced support services in order to assist employees who feel a need for extra support as a result of injury or illness (HSA, 2012). It includes the treatment of the identified condition, rehabilitation and return to work strategies.


Work-related stress (WRS)

WRS is stress caused or made worse by work. It simply refers to when a person perceives the work environment in such a way that his/her reaction involves feelings of an inability to cope. It may be caused by perceived/real pressures/deadlines/ threats/anxieties within the working environment (HSA).