Most people who work have occasionally felt stress from their jobs. However for workers who experience high levels of stress on an ongoing basis, stress can turn into burnout, mental health disorders and physical illnesses. A recent study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) showed that 18% of workers felt their jobs were highly stressful. Even more telling were the responsibilities and job characteristics that increased the likelihood of a worker feeling highly stressed as a result of work.
The study set out to examine the relationship between job stress and worker perceived responsibilities and job characteristics. Information was gathered and analyzed from a survey of 2737 Alberta adult workers who had worked the previous year in a variety of settings, including offices, manufacturing, construction, farming and services.
Among the findings was that more engaged employees were twice as likely to report high stress. The job characteristics associated with stress pointed to workers who were engaged and responsible. Workers were more likely to describe their job as "highly stressful" if they were managers or professionals, worked at a site remote from their home, or if their jobs required them to entertain, travel or work long or variable hours (shift work, being on call, compressed work week or overtime). The odds of being highly stressed also increased for workers if they felt that their poor performance could cause physical injury to themselves or co-workers, or damage to the company's equipment, reputation, or finances.
On the other hand, 82% of workers surveyed reported low or no stress. Statistically, this group tended to be male, single/never married, under the age of 25, and not to have completed high school. Workers who were satisfied with their jobs, or didn't consider their job a career were much less likely to describe their jobs as being highly stressful.
The findings in this study may be helpful to employers in determining where to focus efforts to alleviate stress in their at risk employees.
How employers can help
Employers should assess the workplace for the risk of stress. Look for work pressures which could cause high and long lasting levels of stress, and the employees who may be harmed by these pressures. Determine what can be done to prevent the pressures from becoming negative stressors, including:
- Treat all employees in a fair and respectful manner.
- Design jobs to allow for a balanced workload. Allow employees to have control over the tasks they do as much as possible.
- Keep job demands reasonable by providing manageable deadlines, hours of work, and clear duties, as well as work that is interesting and varied.
- Involve employees in decision-making and allow for their input directly or through committees, etc.
- Do not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form.
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms that a person may be having trouble coping with stress, and take them seriously.
- Encourage managers to have an understanding attitude and to be proactive by looking for signs of stress among their staff.
- Survey employees and ask them for help identifying the causes of stress.
- Once identified, address the root causes of the stress as quickly as possible.
- Provide workplace health and wellness programs that address the source of the stress.
- Provide employees with access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and resources that address their mental health concerns.
- Make sure staff have the training, skills and resources they need.
Review the CAMH study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Learn more about workplace stress from the OSH Answers fact sheet.
Visit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
In the News
Every year on the second Sunday in March, the majority of Canadians and Americans turn their clocks ahead an hour for a much welcomed extra hour of daylight, and in the process they sacrifice precious minutes of sleep. So goes the start of Daylight Saving Time (DST), which continues until the first Sunday in November.
Based on analysis of a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics database that tracks how Americans use their time, employees on average get 40 minutes less sleep on the Sunday night of the switch to DST. That loss of sleep may not seem like much but a study by Michigan State University researchers has found that the Monday following the switch to DST can be a particularly dangerous one. These researchers analyzed information from the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health database of mining injuries from 1983-2006. Their research showed that there were 5.7% more workplace injuries and 67.6% more work days missed due to injuries on the first Monday following DST than on other days.
This research suggests that less sleep may increase both the incidence and severity of injuries. The increased danger isn't just confined to the workplace. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) reports a higher driving risk the first Monday after DST. According to statistics averaged from 2005-2009, on the Monday following the start of DST, car accidents increased 23%.
Perhaps not surprisingly, people have a much easier time adjusting to the switch back to standard time. The same rates of accident and injury do not occur on the Mondays in November when people gain an hour.
So, as the second Monday in March approaches, pay extra attention to employee schedules, sleep, and safety, because as the statistics show, the gains in daylight with DST may come at a human cost.
Tips to ease the effects of the switch to DST
Rest up: Go to bed earlier to get your usual amount of sleep so you can be well rested and alert.
Defer the dangerous: Schedule particularly hazardous work later in the week (where possible) after employees have had more time to adjust their sleep schedules.
Plan ahead: Give yourself extra time to drive to and from work, especially during the Monday commute, to avoid a potential accident.
Step up the safety: Take extra safety precautions and assign extra safety monitors on days following the switch to DST to help avoid potential workplace injuries before they occur.
Read the study: Changing to Daylight Saving Time Cuts Into Sleep and Increases Workplace Injuries (PDF), American Psychological Association
Get smart driving tips for Daylight Saving Time, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
RSI Awareness Day is held every year on the last day of February. It is an opportunity for workers, health and safety professionals, health care practitioners and others to help raise awareness about repetitive strain injuries (RSIs), and the need for action aimed at prevention, rehabilitation and compensation.
RSIs, also known as work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), is a broad term to describe a family of painful disorders affecting tendons, muscles, nerves and joints in the neck, upper and lower back, chest, shoulders, arms and hands.
You may better know these different conditions as:
- back pain
- muscle sprains and strains
- soft tissue injuries to the neck, arms, shoulders or legs
- abdominal hernias
- carpal tunnel syndrome
- fractures and dislocations
Ordinary arm and hand movements such as bending, straightening, gripping, holding, twisting, clenching and reaching can become hazardous in work situations with work that involves:
- fixed or constrained body positions
- continual repetition of movements
- force concentrated on small parts of the body, such as the hand or wrist
- quick pace of work that does not allow enough recovery between movements
Generally, none of these factors on their own cause MSDs. Injuries tend to occur as a result of a combination of factors and the interaction among them. Heat, cold and vibration can also contribute to the development of MSDs.
MSDs are a serious occupational health concern across the world and are leading causes of human suffering, loss of productivity, and economic burdens on society. Several organizations have helpful tools and information to help you learn about the causes of, identify and address work-related hazards to ultimately prevent these painful injuries.
Help is available
Reducing MSD hazards in the workplace: A guide to successful participatory ergonomics programs
The Institute for Work & Health (IWH) developed this step-by-step guide based on the results from a comprehensive systematic review to help you address key barriers in the participatory ergonomics (PE) process; create PE teams with appropriate members; and define team members' responsibilities.
MSD Tool Kit
The Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario developed the free MSD Tool Kit to help eliminate and reduce the risk of MSDs. The tool kit offers guidance on in-depth risk assessment methods, the MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario, as well as several documents on the basics and how to get started.
Online Musculoskeletal Injuries Tool
The online tool from WorkSafe Victoria (Australia) provides information about musculoskeletal injuries by job. The site offers specific MSD hazards and prevention tips on 12 different occupational sectors and jobs including cleaning, farming, manufacturing, construction, and retail.
Just a click away:
- CCOHS' Ergonomics & MSDs key topic page
- OSH Answers fact sheet on work-related musculoskeletal disorders
- Office Ergonomics Safety Guide, CCOHS
- Musculoskeletal Injuries by Occupation online tool, WorkSafe Victoria
- MSD Tool Kit, Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario
- MusculoSkeletal Disorders (MSDs): Awareness free CCOHS e-course
- IWH participatory ergonomics guide free download
- Case studies to prevent work-related MSDs in agriculture, EU-OSHA
Health and Safety To Go
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips and insights into the health, safety and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
In this month's face to face episode of Health and Safety To Go!, Substance Use and the Workplace, we tackle the issues surrounding substance use and the workplace with Dr. Matthew Young, senior policy analyst at the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, and Barbara Butler, president of Barbara Butler and Associates Inc. The podcast runs just over 12 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
In our second episode, Preventing Musculoskeletal Injuries, we take a 4 minute look at work-related musculoskeletal injuries and how to prevent them. Listen to the podcast now.
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
Mould is everywhere, occurring naturally both indoors and outdoors, including the workplace; and managing mould issues can be both challenging and complicated. To provide you with an understanding of the basic issues surrounding mould in the workplace, CCOHS is presenting a 90 minute webinar which will include an overview of the general principles and approaches used to manage the issue effectively. You will learn about effective communication between stakeholders and see real world examples to enable workplaces less experienced in this issue to interact effectively with professionals to address a mould problem when it arises.
The webinar will be presented by Chris Liddy B.Sc. M.Sc., CCOHS Occupational Health and Safety Specialist. Chris has been involved in various activities such as presenting environmentally-related subjects to national audiences and assisting with CCOHS product development. Chris received both a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Science and a Master of Science, Environmental Biology from the University of Guelph.
The webinar will be of particular interest to health and safety professionals, health and safety representatives, managers, supervisors, business owners and anyone interested in indoor air quality.
Mould, Spores and More: The Real Deal
Presenter: Chris Liddy, CCOHS
Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm EST
- American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) - 0.25 CM points
- Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists (CRBOH) - 0.25 maintenance points
- Ontario Kinesiology Association (OKA) - 2 secondary category OKA CESP points
Register now for the webinar.
Learn more about mould in CCOHS' Mould in the Workplace: A Basic Guide.
National Day of Mourning, April 28
April 28th is National Day of Mourning in Canada. The flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half mast, we will pause, remember those who have lost their lives or been injured in the workplace, and reflect on how to prevent future tragedies.
You can wear your support with a Day of Mourning commemorative pin. Or, you can download and display our free poster in your workplace. Printed posters are also available at a nominal cost. To receive your materials in time, you should place your orders by March 31.
Steps for Life Walk, May 1
On May 1st, in 35 cities across Canada, the Steps for Life 5 KM Walk will kick off NAOSH Week 2011. The event is not only fun, it also helps spread the message that workplace injuries and illnesses are preventable. Steps for Life is the major fundraising event for Threads of Life, a national charitable organization dedicated to supporting families, who have suffered from a workplace fatality, life-altering illness or occupational disease, along their journey of healing.
The CCOHS team will once again be walking in the Hamilton event. Find the walk closest to you and put your team together. It will be a Sunday to remember.
Learn more about how you can participate from the Steps for Life website.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2017, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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