Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #: 96: Managing Workplace Stress



Introduction: Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, a production of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, broadcasting from Hamilton, Ontario.

Host: Thank you for joining us for this episode of Health and Safety to Go.† Joining us today is John Oudyk, Occupational Hygienist at the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers. We have John here today to talk about workplace stress and most importantly prevention strategies. Thank you for joining us today John.

John:†† Thank you Jen. I'm glad to be here.

Host: Can you tell us what stress looks like in today's workplaces?

John:†† †Itís an interesting question because yesterday morning, I was looking in the newspaper and there was an article about First Responders and post-traumatic stress disorder. I think we see a lot of stories about stress in the workplace. We also now have legislation in Ontario about harassment and violence in the workplace. So there are certain issues, high-profile issues that relate to stress in the workplace. However, there's a lot of other stress in the workplace, which doesn't have as much attention and I think this new CSA standard has shone a light on some of those issues and these are simple issues like workload, the way we relate to each other in the workplace, how we organize our work etc. †So there are a lot of different faces of stress in the workplace.

Host:† How do we work towards eliminating or preventing stress in the workplace?

John:† †When we deal with workplaces that are interested in tackling this issue, we actually try to, in a sense dampen their enthusiasm with a bit of dose of reality. It's a big job. First of all, you need to learn about what the issue is. You need to understand stress in the workplace, how broad it is, what the resources are.

Secondly you need to organize. You can't do this on your own.† You need to get people behind you. You need to get collaboration from management, from workers, from unions, from health and safety committees. They all have a role to play and no one person can do it alone. Also itís a long-term issue. You can't just put a Band-Aid on it and slap your hands and say next job.† You're in it for the long term.

Third, once you've come to the point where you feel you're ready to actually address the issue and people recognize that it is an issue in your workplace, you need to pick a tool to do the assessment. There are different ways of doing it, there are questionnaires, there are checklists, there are programs you can take and apply to your workplace. There are many different tools. There is actually no shortage of them, especially in Europe where they've been doing this for many years.

Once you've identified your issues, then you need to look at which ones are the ones that we can change in our workplace and what are the solutions.† Again, there are many resources, ideas that are online that you can apply and once you've picked the ones that you want to change, then you make the change, you do it well, you do it systematically and you evaluate how you've done. No change is ever going to fix all the problems. This is a process. It's a learning process and you go through the steps again.† Learn from what you've done, learn from your mistakes, you organize again, you assess, you change and evaluate.

Host:† What about workers who are already suffering from stress, how can they be helped?

John:† Many workplaces have an Employee Assistance Program where workers can seek someone to talk to about their problems and get referred to appropriate resources to deal with their specific issues. So that's a good place to start for someone who's experiencing difficulties.

However, there are other programs available that can help at an earlier level, raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of stress, relaxation methods.† There's also a program called Mental Health First Aid, teaches people how to recognize the signs of mental illness and also how to deal with them, how to support people who are in a crisis or who are struggling chronically in the workplace. There are many resources available. It's just a matter of organizing your workplace and figuring out what fits best in your organization.

Host:† Thanks John. Do you have any closing thoughts or advice regarding workplace stress for our listeners?

John:† One last point is that people in the workplace need to recognize that psychological health and safety is a health and safety issue, just like slips, trips and falls and exposure to dust, noise and other hazards. It's a hazard in the workplace that affects many many workers and there are things that we can do to prevent these ill effects, and by organizing your workplace and working together, I think there are many things you can do to improve the workplace.

Host:† Thank you again for joining us today, John. You've shared some great tips and strategies on how to prevent workplace stress.† For more information on stress in the workplace, please visit ccohs.ca.† Thanks for listening everyone!