In the News
Study finds job-related stress amongst police officers creates significant health risks
Not surprisingly, high levels of stress are a regular part of the job faced by the approximately 70,000 police officers in Canada (and 860,000 in the United States). A recent study revealed that the psychological stress that police officers experience in their day to day work puts them at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and other physical and mental health ailments. They may even face an increased risk for suicide.
The Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study evaluated 464 police officers from the Buffalo Police Department, over a five year period, to examine the association between the stress of being a police officer and psychological and health outcomes. The findings demonstrate that police work by itself can seriously affect the health of officers, according to the study's principal investigator John Violanti, PhD, professor of social and preventive medicine at the University of Buffalo.
The research was founded on the assumption that the danger, high demands and exposure to human misery and death that police officers experience on the job contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health issues. The researchers also wanted to know what other contributing factors lead to cardiovascular disease in police.
Shift work, for example, was found to be a contributing factor to an increase in metabolic syndrome (a cluster of symptoms believed to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes). Researchers found that as a group, officers who work nights have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome than those who work day shifts, an important fact considering that 46.9 percent of officers in the BCOPS study worked a non-day shift compared to just 9 percent of U.S. workers.
Other key findings:
- 40 percent of the officers were obese, compared with 32 percent of the general population.
- More than 25 percent of the officers had metabolic syndrome versus 18.7 percent of the general population.
- The officers studied were at increased risk of developing Hodgkin's lymphoma and brain cancer after 30 years of service.
- Suicide rates were more than eight times higher in working officers than they were in officers who had retired or left the police force, challenging the common belief that officers who have left or retired from the force are at increased risk for suicide.
The study found that the culture of police work is often not supportive of improving health or of those who have problems. Officers who reveal health problems may pay a high price in terms of losing financial status, professional reputation or both. For example, if they have heart disease, they may not be allowed to go back on the street; or if they go for mental health counselling, they may be overlooked for promotions.
Recommendations from the study authors
The study authors recommend that officers in police academy be given appropriate training so they understand signs of stress and how to get them treated. They suggest that middle and upper management in police departments should receive training on how to accept officers who ask for help, and how to ensure that officers are not afraid to ask for that help.
The study, funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, will be published in July in a special issue of the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health.
Read the news release about the study.
Find resources related to stress on the Healthy Minds at Work website.
Tips & Tools
In Canada, summertime signals the arrival of warm weather, vacations, and time spent outdoors. For many it is a time to head to the beach, lake, or pool. Sadly, in the past few weeks and months, the news has been riddled with reports of people drowning.
In 2011, 347 people drowned in Canada, according to the Canadian Drowning Report 2012, prepared for the Lifesaving Society by the Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada. The report shows that the vast majority of drowning victims continue to be men across all age groups, especially among eighteen to thirty-four year-olds, where nine of every ten victims are male. The report attributes this result to the fact that men are more likely than women to take risks around water. Overall, men accounted for eighty-two percent of Canada's water-related deaths during 2005 to 2009. But the statistics do not exclude young children who, every year, are represented in the drowning fatality report.
A small child can drown within seconds, in only a few centimetres of water (enough to cover the mouth and nose). Young children should never be left alone near water, whether it's a pool, the bathtub, a water park, or the beach. Supervise children carefully, and be within arm's reach when they are playing in or around water, even if they can swim. Have weak or non-swimmers wear a personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket in, on or around water.
Backyard pools are especially dangerous for small children. Ensure the pool is properly fenced off to prevent children from entering unattended and that it has a self-closing, self-latching gate. The gate should be locked at all times. Empty portable toddler pools after each use.
Don't dive head first into water unless the individual is properly trained and is certain that the water is deep enough. Don't dive in home pools and always enter the water feet first.
Get trained (swimming lessons) and swim within your capabilities. When swimming in the ocean or open water keep an eye on the shifting weather patterns. Be aware of the tides and currents and take extra precautions when swimming in currents. Weak or non-swimmers or waders can be swept away in an instant, especially if they get caught by a river current or out of their depth in abrupt drop-offs. Swim in supervised areas, in the daylight when you can see and be seen, and always swim with a buddy.
Many injuries or deaths involving boating are the result of drinking alcohol and boating, or from not wearing a PFD or lifejacket. Alcohol and boating don't mix so don't boat when you have been consuming alcohol. Boats are required by law to have enough lifejackets/PFDs on board for everyone and they should be properly sized for and worn by each passenger. Lifejackets and PFDs need to be approved by Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or a combination of these organizations. If you're operating a boat, learn the rules of the water by enrolling in a boat operator's program, and get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Learn how to respond in an emergency by taking first aid and water safety lessons. Abide by the boating regulations for your craft and province.
Drownings are preventable. Keep safety top of mind so you and your family can enjoy a fun, safe summer in and around the water.
Boat Smart Canada
Swimming and Water Safety, Canadian Red Cross
Canadian Drowning Report 2012 Edition (PDF), Lifesaving Society
Article on lifejackets and personal flotation devices, CCOHS Health and Safety Report
Work space requirements for office work
For those who work in an office, the workstation or workspace is where they sit, think, work, meet and, depending on the nature of the job, spend many of their waking hours. So when you are designing or planning a workspace, there are several factors to consider to best suit your employee and the work they do.
Office spaces must be designed and outfitted to enable employees to move safely and freely in the space, accommodating storage requirements and visitors where necessary, and allowing them to comfortably perform all aspects of their job. But how much space does an employee actually need?
To answer this seemingly simple question, you have to consider many aspects, including:
NATURE OF WORK
If the employee spends most of the work day out of the office, in the field, or away from their desk, a smaller office space may be just fine. However, for office workers who spend most of their time at their workstation, a small space may make them feel cramped, confined and uncomfortable. Some job functions, just by the nature of the work (e.g. frequent meetings or visitors in their office space) may need more workspace.
Our perception of "adequate size" is a matter of comparison. Employees generally accept that people in higher management positions have larger offices. The amount of our personal space is often linked with our status within the organization, often signifying importance, respect and more authority or power. However, regardless of how large an individual's space actually is - if it is not as big as that of their peers - it will be regarded as too small.
ANTHROPOMETRY (BODY DIMENSIONS)
Actual office space requirements depend on the size and shape of employees simply because an office has to accommodate them, enable them to move safely and unhindered in the workspace, and allow them to complete their jobs.
The allocation of the amount of working space for offices, and for workplaces in general, is complex. It is difficult to find standards that would apply to all kinds of work situations, and this is why existing standards and guidelines specify only the general requirements, if any.
PRIVACY: Does the workspace provide the level of privacy required? Can people talk in private, according to the level of confidentiality required? Do noises and conversations interfere with concentration or make it difficult to hear (if the work involves using the telephone)?
LIGHT: Does the workspace provide the appropriate type of lighting (natural or artificial) required to comfortably perform the job tasks?
SPACE AND WORK SURFACE: Is there need for space for storage or equipment (such as filing cabinets, or a second computer screen), or additional furniture such as a visitor's chair?
Read the full OSH Answers fact sheet for suggested space dimensions, outlines of the Canadian Standards Association "Z412-00 Guideline on Office Ergonomics" (R2011), and "Government of Canada Workplace 2.0 Fit-up Standards" as published by Public Works and Government Services Canada (2012).
Still have questions? You can contact CCOHS' Inquiries & Client Services, a free person-to-person information service available to all Canadians. You can submit a question to our Inquiry Officers in three convenient formats: through our informative question and answer-style fact sheets, OSH Answers, via e-mail, and by our traditional person-to-person telephone/mail information service: 1-800-668-4284.
Office Ergonomics e-course, CCOHS
Office Ergonomics Safety Guide, CCOHS
Office Health and Safety Guide, CCOHS
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts explore psychosocial issues and feature an encore presentation of job safety analysis.
Feature podcast: Exploring Psychosocial Issues in the Workplace
Dr. Kevin Kelloway, the Canada Research Chair in Occupational Health Psychology at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia explains what positive psychology is and how it relates to workplace stress. Dr. Kelloway is a featured speaker at Forum IV taking place October 29 and 30, 2012.
The podcast runs 16:09 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore podcast: Basic Tips for a Job Safety Analysis
CCOHS covers the basic steps to conducting a job safety analysis.
The podcast runs 3:49 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
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. See the complete list of podcast topics. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go! Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
New posters help raise awareness of chemical hazards and worker rights
An important step in creating a safe and healthy workplace is educating people about, and raising awareness of, the issues and hazards. With chemical entry points and basic worker rights as the topics, the two newest posters from CCOHS do just that.
The Three Basic Rights poster describes the three rights of workers in Canada that help them work safely: the right to know; the right to participate; and the right to refuse dangerous work.
How Chemicals Enter the Body is a visual reminder of how hazardous chemicals can get into your body through eye contact, inhalation, skin contact, ingestion, and injection. It equips the reader with information to help them take precautions to protect themself.
CCOHS has more than twenty posters to help you spread the word to your employees or students on a variety of topics including: workplace anti-bullying and violence, scent-free workplaces, tips for safe lifting, WHMIS hazard symbols, and more.
Available in glossy print (English on one side, French on the other) or as a free PDF download, these brightly coloured, plainly worded posters keep the message clear and will get the attention of your staff or students.
See the full collection of posters from CCOHS.
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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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