A Convincing Case for Healthy Workplaces

This report presents a compelling and very readable rationale for investing in healthy workplaces. It effectively melds occupational health, lifestyle habits, and issues related to the organization of work and the workplace. Despite our knowledge, much remains to be done:
  • Each year in Canada, about 1,000 workers die on the job, and 350,000 suffer lost-time Workers’ Comp accidents.
  • Union leaders often resist health promoting programs because they tend to shift responsibility for behaviour and practices to the worker, however responses from the Aventis Healthcare Survey show union members generally welcome such programs. (Employers sometimes resist adding the administrative cost of initial program investment, and of providing paid attendance time for employees, however, such costs are typically very small relative to the cost of avoidable illness and injury – Editor.)
  • Few employers understand the serious effects of shortfalls in psychosocial health, such as work overload, inadequate job control, lack of rewards, and unsupportive, unfair cultures.
Employers need to recognise the importance of mental and emotional health. Two governments already have: Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (1993) requires employers to promote and maintain “the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers”, and in 2004, Québec made psychological harassment illegal. The case for healthy workplaces must integrate a progression of needs from basic occupational health and safety, to bene?t design, through health promotion, and ending with policies that encourage a supportive culture and protect employees from some of the darker elements of human nature. Employers have a strong ?nancial, moral, and increasingly, a legal responsibility to act on this knowledge.
From: Creating Healthy Workplaces, J. Burton, Industrial Accident Prevention Association, November 2004. www.iapa.on.ca.

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