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A healthy workplace promotes the total health and well-being of its employees and strives to protect them from psychological harm including stress. A recent white paper released by Morneau-Shepell and the Mental Health Commission of Canada reveals that more than a third (34%) of Canadians cite workplace stress as the primary cause of their mental health issue.
Like many other issues surrounding mental health, stress is often misunderstood or stigmatized. However, if it is treated as an organizational issue rather than an individual fault, stress can be just as manageable as any other workplace safety and health risk.
A psychologically healthy and safe workplace provides workers with work-life balance, reasonable job demands, value and respect, challenging work, opportunity for growth and development, and security. This can lead to a more enjoyable work environment, increased productivity, and happier workers who feel encouraged, supported and recognized for their efforts.
Recognizing Workplace Stress
There is no single cause of workplace stress. There are many factors within workplaces that can influence feelings of stress, including job design, a worker’s role in the organization, interpersonal work relationships, the workplace culture, management style, work-life imbalance, and working conditions. Family, financial, health and community issues from outside work can influence reactions to these workplace conditions. It is safe to say that every worker is affected by a variety of personal and workplace factors at any given time, and that mental health is managed on an ongoing, daily basis.
However, workers may experience stress when the demands of their job are excessive and greater than their capacity to cope with them. In addition to mental health problems, workers suffering from prolonged stress can go on to develop serious physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease or musculoskeletal problems.
The negative effects of stress in a workplace can include increased absenteeism and presenteeism (workers turning up for work when sick and unable to function effectively) and increased accident and injury rates. Absences tend to be longer than those arising from other causes and work-related stress may contribute to increased rates of early retirement. The cost to businesses and society can be substantial.
A positive psychosocial environment can enhance performance and personal development, as well as workers’ mental and physical well-being. In this supportive work environment workers' skills are appropriately matched with their job duties and they are motivated to perform to the best of their ability.
Good job design accommodates an employee's mental and physical abilities and can help minimize or control workplace stress. Jobs should be reasonably demanding and provide the employee with at least a minimum of variety of job tasks. Employees should be able to learn on the job and continue to learn as their career develops. Allowing for decision making can support employee development and independence. Recognition in the workplace is important and the employee should feel that their job has potential for development.
Tips from the Morneau-Shepell white paper include:
Support the employee-manager relationship. Employees need to feel safe at work and have trust with their employer. Encouraging open conversations about mental health and reducing stigma can help to create a caring mental health culture.
Training managers to understand and support employees with mental health problems and illnesses is both advantageous and proactive. Normalize mental health throughout your workforce. Supporting people to share their experiences can help break stigma and prevent negative attitudes and behaviours from flourishing.
Use the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace – the first of its kind in the world. It is a set of voluntary guidelines, tools and resources intended to guide organizations in promoting mental health and preventing psychological harm at work.
Additional advice for employers:
Mental health is not merely the absence of illness, but a focus that needs to be embedded in all aspects of the workplace, from its everyday culture to its policies and programs.
Tips & Tools
Marcie was in the lunchroom eating with co-workers when she used a knife that had come into contact with shrimp. She felt her throat begin to constrict, making it hard to breathe. She alerted her co-workers who immediately called 911. Marcie is one of many who experience life-threatening anaphylactic reactions at work each year.
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that can develop quickly, affecting many different body organs and systems. Allergic reactions can be mild, affecting only the skin, to severe, affecting the airways and/or heart, resulting in death.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis
If you are having an anaphylactic reaction, you may experience a few or all of these signs and symptoms:
Symptoms usually occur within minutes of exposure, but there can be a delay of 30 minutes or more. There can be an equally serious second reaction one to eight hours after the initial reaction.
Triggers commonly include:
What workplaces can do
If you have been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector, inform your workplace. Wear a medic alert bracelet or necklace that states your allergy and the location of your auto-injector, or carry your auto-injector with you at all times.
During a reaction, it may not be possible for you to inject yourself. Make sure immediate co-workers know how to recognize signs of a reaction, where the auto-injector is located, and how to use it. Co-workers should also know how to call for first aid personnel or for outside emergency responders.
When in doubt, inject.
If a worker indicates that they are having a severe allergic reaction, or if you suspect a person is having a severe reaction, administer the epinephrine auto-injector. No harm will be caused to a person by providing a single injection if it turns out they are not having an allergic reaction.
Resources and information on administering first aid appropriate for anaphylaxis:
The Government of Canada made a commitment to Canadians through Bill C-65 to help ensure that federally regulated workplaces, including Parliament Hill, are free from harassment and violence.
On July 24th, 2018, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, invited Canadians to voice their opinion on the proposed regulatory framework to be implemented should Bill C-65 become law.
All Canadians are welcome to participate in this consultation as your insights will help shape the new framework. You are invited to read the consultation paper before completing the survey as it provides a comprehensive overview of the proposed regulatory framework.
For more information, follow the Labour Program on Twitter.
Health and Safety To Go
This month’s featured podcasts include tips for protection from ticks and mosquitos and an encore presentation of Summer Safety Tips.
Feature Podcast: Protection from Pesky Summer Pests
Unpleasant encounters with ticks and mosquitos can lead to diseases such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. This podcast episode provides helpful information outdoor workers can use to protect themselves from these pesky summer pests.
The podcast runs 4:39 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Summer Safety Tips
Warm and sunny summer months mean more time spent outdoors. And whether you work or play in the great outdoors, you are at greater risk of illness and injury resulting from excessive sun exposure and extreme heat. In this podcast CCOHS provides steps you can take to make your summer safe and injury free.
The podcast runs for 4:59 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. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
The multi-year WHMIS 2015 transition is getting closer to the deadline. Now it’s not too late to make sure that employers and workers are up to speed with courses and information to help them understand the system.
Remaining Transition Phases
From June 1, 2018 to August 31, 2018
Distributors can continue to sell, and those importing for their own use can continue to use, hazardous products with labels and (M)SDSs that are compliant with WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015.
During this phase, manufacturers and importers are required to only sell or import hazardous products with labels and SDSs that are compliant with WHMIS 2015. The transition to WHMIS 2015 for manufacturers and importers is now complete.
From September 1, 2018 to November 30, 2018
During this phase, manufacturers, importers and distributors are required to sell or import only those hazardous products that are complaint with WHMIS 2015. At this point, transition to WHMIS 2015 is complete for all suppliers.
Full Implementation of WHMIS 2015
By December 1, 2018, all suppliers and employers will be required to be in compliance with the new Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR).
CCOHS WHMIS 2015 online training and resources
For chemical suppliers
Free WHMIS 2015 Resources from CCOHS:
For WHMIS updates visit https://www.whmis.org/.
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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.
© 2018, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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