Health and Safety ReportApril 2009 - Volume 7, Issue 4

In the News

Beyond Your Control and Causing You Stress: Impact of Work Organization on Job Stressprint this article

If work is stressing you out you are not alone. Work stress is a challenge for and a threat to the health of both workers and organizations. As the nature of work and work environments change, so do the kinds of stress problems that employees face. And work organization plays a significant role in work stress.
People may experience work-related stress when their job demands and pressures are not matched to their knowledge and abilities, and they have a low amount of control over meeting these demands. Stress is often made worse when employees feel they don't have support from supervisors and coworkers. Some pressure at work is unavoidable and may even keep workers alert and motivated. However, when that pressure becomes excessive or unmanageable it leads to too much stress, which can harm workers' health and the performance of the organization.

The more control workers have over their work and the way they do it, and the more they participate in decisions that concern their jobs, the less likely they are to experience work stress. Most of the causes of work stress are related to the way jobs are designed and the way organizations are managed. Because these aspects of work can potentially cause harm, they are called 'stress-related hazards'.

Stress-related hazards

  • Job content: lack of variety; monotonous, meaningless and/or unpleasant tasks.

  • Workload and work pace: having too much or too little to do; working under time pressures.

  • Working hours: unpredictable, strict or inflexible working schedules; shift work.

  • Participation and control: lack of participation in decision-making; no control over work methods, pace, environment, and working hours.

  • Career development, status and pay: job insecurity, under-promotion or over-promotion; unclear or unfair performance evaluation systems; skill level not matched to the job.

  • Role in the organization: unclear role or conflicting job demands; level of responsibility; continuously dealing with other people and their problems.

  • Interpersonal relationships: poor or unsupportive supervision; poor relationships with coworkers/subordinates; bullying, harassment and violence; solitary work; no procedures for dealing with complaints.

  • Organizational culture: poor communication and leadership; unclear organizational objectives.

  • Home/work interface: conflicting demands of work and home, and lack of support for domestic problems at work - and for work problems at home.

Effects of work stress

Work stress has a high cost for individuals, organizations, and for society. It can harm workers' psychological and physical health, as well as the organizations' effectiveness.

People affected by stress can have difficulty concentrating and making decisions, become increasingly distressed and irritable, enjoy their job less and feel less committed to it. They may also feel tired, depressed, and have difficulty sleeping. In addition, stress can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, digestive system disorders, headaches, musculoskeletal disorders (such as low back pain) and increases in blood pressure. Workers who are stressed may find it difficult to maintain a healthy balance between work and non-work life and may engage in unhealthy activities, such as smoking, drinking and abusing drugs.

If key staff or a large number of workers are affected by stress, the organization may experience increased absenteeism and staff turn-over and the associated costs of recruiting and training new employees. Stress also takes a heavy toll in terms of poor productivity and efficiency, increased unsafe work practices and accident rates, and increased liability to legal claims and actions by stressed workers. Unhealthy organizations do not get the best from their workers and are less likely to be successful in a competitive market

What employers can do to help

Employers should assess the workplace for the risk of stress. They should look for pressures at work which could cause high and long lasting levels of stress, and determine who could be harmed by these pressures, and what can be done to prevent them. Good management and good work organization are effective forms of work stress prevention.

Well-designed work should include:

  • Clear organizational structure and practices. Employees should be provided with clear information about the structure, purpose and practices of the organization.

  • Appropriate selection, training and staff development. Employees' skills, knowledge and abilities should be matched as much as possible to the job requirements, and suitable training should be provided. Effective supervision and guidance can help protect staff from stress.

  • Job descriptions on the purpose and organization of work and how performance will be measured. Employees' managers and other key staff must be aware of the relevant details of the job and ensure that demands are appropriate.

  • Communication. Managers should talk with and listen to their staff. Work expectations should be easy for the employee to understand, clearly communicated and consistent with the job description.

  • Social environment. Teamwork and a reasonable level of socializing can help increase commitment to work and to the work team.

  • Organizational culture. This is a key factor in determining how successful an organization will manage work stress, and recognize and solve problems. It can affect which situations are experienced as stressful, how that experience translates into health difficulties, how stress and health are reported, and how the organization responds to such reports.

Finally, it is not only important to identify stress problems and deal with them, but also to promote healthy work and reduce harmful aspects of work.

Sources and more information:

Work Organization and Stress: Protecting Workers Health Series #3, WHO guidance booklet on a Framework for Psychosocial Risk Management

Stress at work, ILO SafeWork

Workplace Stress, CCOHS

NIOSH Publication No. 99-101: STRESS... At Work

Hazard Alert

MSDS at Oil and Gas Lease Sitesprint this article

Many of the products used at oil and gas lease sites may be hazardous to workers' health and safety. Employers are legally required to have specific information, in the form of material safety data sheets (MSDSs), available at the work site for products that are classified as "controlled products" under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). The product supplier is responsible for providing this information, and it must be correct and properly represent the hazards of the specific product.

Inspections for WHMIS compliance conducted by Alberta at oil and gas lease sites found that:

  • some MSDSs were outdated or incomplete

  • MSDSs were missing for some controlled products that were at the lease site, and

  • some product shipments had been received without the required supplier labels or MSDSs.

Alberta Employment and Immigration, Workplace Health and Safety issued a bulletin to remind employers to ensure the health and safety of lease site workers, by:

  • ensuring that MSDSs are up-to-date. MSDSs must be updated by the product supplier or employer (in some cases the lease site owner is the supplier) whenever new information becomes available, or every 3 years, whichever comes first.

  • verifying that MSDSs are readily available on site to all workers at all times for each controlled product that workers may be exposed to.

  • verifying that products received at the lease site without a supplier label, an up-to-date MSDS, or other acceptable documentation are not used until the information is received from the supplier.

The supplier is responsible for providing this information and ensuring that products supplied to the lease site have the same properties as those specified in the supplier labels or MSDSs.

For more information:

Read the full bulletin from Alberta Employment and Immigration.

Find out more about WHMIS from OSH Answers, CCOHS

Partner News

NAOSH Week Aims To Help Workers Make it Home Safe - Every Dayprint this article

We all want to come home from work safe and sound at the end of the day. And that is the inspiration for the theme, Make it Home Safe Every Day, of this year's North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week. During NAOSH Week, May 3-9th, organizations all across Canada and the continent are hosting events to strengthen our commitment to and focus our attention on preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community.

NAOSH Week is led by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), in concert with the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and partners in Mexico.

The Canadian NAOSH Week Launch, to be held this year on May 4th in Winnipeg, Manitoba, officially marks the beginning of NAOSH Week, with government officials, business leaders, dignitaries and occupational health and safety professionals from across the country in attendance.

Need some help on how you can take part in NAOSH Week? The NAOSH Week website at offers a variety of tools, suggestions and resources to help you plan and create your own NAOSH events, or find events in your own community to participate in. You can even promote your event by listing it on the NAOSH Week website.

A Week of Free Webinars From CCOHS

Once again CCOHS is keeping its NAOSH Week tradition of offering free webinars - live and recorded - on current health and safety topics. All you need is a computer with Internet access and speakers to participate. Better yet, make an event of it by running the webinars in a meeting room and inviting your coworkers to join you.

All webinars take place from 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You can register now for one or all three.

May 4: Evaluating MSDS First Aid Advice, presented by Jessie Callaghan, Senior Technical Specialist, CCOHS (recorded webinar, pre-registration is recommended).

Sometimes the first aid advice on material safety data sheets (MSDSs) can seem inconsistent and confusing for people to apply in the workplace. The webinar examines some real first aid advice given on current MSDSs. Find out if today's science supports these recommendations.

May 6: Preventing and Enforcing Musculoskeletal Hazards in the Workplace, presented by Anne Duffy, Ergonomist, Ontario Ministry of Labour (live webinar).

Learn how Ontario's health and safety system has engaged its partners to coordinate their efforts to implement a musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) prevention strategy. This strategy includes access to prevention resources such as the MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario and sector specific materials, integration into WSIB prevention services and enforcement by the Ministry of Labour.

Although the session will focus on Ontario's experience at enforcing MSD hazards through its health and safety legislation, anyone with an interest in preventing musculoskeletal hazards in the workplace will gain an understanding of the variety of MSD prevention resources that are available.

May 7: Mentally Healthy Workplaces: Strategies for Success, presented by Donna Hardaker, Specialist, Workplace Mental Health, Canadian Mental Health Association (live webinar).

The webinar discusses mental health protective factors and how to take care of both ourselves and others in the workplace. You will learn to recognize risk factors including conflicting tasks, work overload and unreasonable work pace. Discover how skill discretion, decision authority, perceived fairness and leveraging your workplace's social support network could help your teams build a more mentally healthy workplace.

Whether you create your own - or take part in other organized events, find a way to get involved this NAOSH Week and help raise awareness - so that workers everywhere make it home safe every day.


A Bouquet of New Offeringsprint this article

Maybe it's the season of new growth because things are springing up all over the place here at CCOHS. We've been busy over the winter planning, developing and creating a whole slate of new offerings to help you and our organization create a healthy workplace and stay current on the issues in Canada.

New e-Courses

Orientation on Health & Safety for New Workers

New employees need to know about their health and safety responsibilities, legislation, job related hazards, and how to work safety. This 90-minute e-course provides new workers with a general introduction to occupational health and safety, as well as information about their workplace rights, the role of health and safety programs within a workplace, and how to identify job-related hazards in order to work safely. Information on pricing and how to register is available on the CCOHS website.

Watch for the free WHMIS After GHS e-courses currently in development with Health Canada and the National Office of WHMIS (NOW) - coming soon.

Forum III: Leading Workplace Change - Save the Date!

CCOHS will be hosting its third national forum to engage Canadians from across the country to explore how to lead workplace change and exchange creative solutions to help people be safe and healthy at work. Forum III will be held March 8 & 9th, 2010, in Gatineau, PQ - so mark your calendars now. More details will be released in the upcoming weeks on the Forum website, including the topics and speakers, as well as registration and exhibiting information.

Something to Tweet About!

Did you know that you can now follow us on Twitter @CCOHS and get the inside track on CCOHS and all things health and safety? Even better - you can tweet your ideas and thoughts right back. Sign up on Twitter and join the conversation.

CanOSH Website - Not Just a Pretty Face

This month we completed a major revamp of this popular website. With a more effective navigation design as well as new and updated content, CanOSH will continue to help people easily find workplace health and safety information from the Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments and agencies. We ask for your patience as we continue to work in the following weeks to further refine the site. Visit the new CanOSH at


This new MSDS authoring software from CCOHS helps you easily write WHMIS-compliant MSDSs for your products. CANWrite's clear language and logic-driven phrases will help ensure your MSDSs are consistent, reliable, and understandable. If you are a small-to medium-sized chemical manufacturer or supplier, an OSH consultant/professional, or occupational hygienist, CANWrite is ideal for you. Find out more about CANWrite on the CCOHS website.

Podcasts Serve Up Health and Safety To Go

CCOHS wrapped up production on its very first podcast. The first in an ongoing series, Health and Safety to Go provides "bite" sized informational podcasts on a variety of health, safety and wellness issues as well as interviews with experts and specialists who will provide their insights and perspectives. The first episode features an interview with Len Hong, PCEO of CCOHS, about the Day of Mourning. You can download the 9 minute audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience. Listen to it now …

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We welcome your feedback and story ideas.

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