Most business managers have some appreciation of health and safety on the job and recognise that they have a moral and legal duty to keep employees safe and healthy while they are at work. But do they fully understand the scope of what “safe and healthy” really means?
You have no doubt tried to make sure your employees are not put at risk of injury or work-related illness. Indeed, it is now recognised that a workplace can be physically safe and yet still be an unhealthy place to work. Increasingly, the issues of stress and mental health are becoming a cause for concern. Some have argued that this could be the next time bomb to hit the cost of doing business.
These so called psychosocial hazards include:
- Constant work overload.
- Lack of control over how work is done.
- Harassment, bullying, or discrimination on the job.
- Lack of supervisor support.
- Lack of respect for workers.
- Lack of appropriate rewards and appreciation for the effort expended.
- Lack of support for work-family balance.
- Poor communication.
- Ambiguity about job responsibilities.
Most people know intuitively that these things are unpleasant. But they are also hazardous to the health and safety of employees. Research shows that some of these situations can make employees up to three times more likely to suffer from back pain, heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders, substance abuse, infections, mental illness such as depression and anxiety, conflicts and violence at work. Employees can be as much as five times more likely to suffer from certain cancers.
Clearly, any company with an increased risk of these conditions will be ultimately paying for it in increased absenteeism, short and long-term disability, decreased productivity and employers liability insurance costs.
In addition, there is an increasing amount of litigation occurring in courts, and growing settlements in favour of employees related to the employer’s responsibility to provide a “civil and respectful” or an “emotionally safe” workplace.
The good news is that employers can do something about these issues! Some strategies that have helped companies control psychosocial risks are:
- Encouraging workers to participate in decision-making.
- Demonstrating fairness in management style and application of policies.
- Training and evaluating supervisors on communication and “people skills”.
- Providing flexible work arrangements.
- Providing work-life balance policies and practices and a supportive culture.
- Showing appreciation for employees’ efforts.
- Ensuring the workplace environment is respectful to all workers.
- Measuring employee satisfaction regularly and acting on findings.
- Providing employees with the information and resources they need to do their jobs well.
- Addressing work overload issues.
None of these strategies are simple or can be accomplished by just spending money or issuing edicts. Employers will increasingly need to understand how to manage these risks and encourage use of tools, such as the Cardinus Stress Indicator Tool, based on the HSE’s Stress Indicator, to reduce the potential for these issues to manifest themselves into work-related illness, injury and claims.
Cardinus can also offer a free trial of a number of e-learning courses and online tools that could help to manage or reduce workplace stress.
- Managing Stress at Work to help you to recognise and manage the symptoms of stress.
- CtrlWORK rest break software is a useful tool that will help employees manage their work/rest ratio.
- AltMOUSE keyboard shortcut training will help employees save time, work healthier and feel more comfortable.
- HSL Safety Climate Tool focuses on understanding the attitudes, values and perceptions of your workforce.