Putting Canada's Healthy Workplace Month into ongoing practice

Oct 11, 2011

Putting Canada's Healthy Workplace Month into ongoing practiceOctober is Canada's Healthy Workplace Month, but don't limit your healthy workplace initiatives to once a year. Leverage the occasion into an ongoing opportunity to improve employee health and wellness, strengthen your health and safety culture, and boost performance.

The goals

Canada's Healthy Workplace Month is intended to

  • increase awareness of a comprehensive approach to workplace health that involves all three elements of a healthy workplace:
    • health and lifestyle practices
    • workplace culture and supportive environment
    • physical environment and occupational health and safety
  • through healthyworkplacemonth.ca, generate awareness and availability of healthy workplace tools, resources and best practices
  • increase the number of healthy workplaces in Canada.

The month is managed by Excellence Canada (formerly the National Quality Institute), in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). On visiting the Canada's Healthy Workplace Month website, you'll find resources, activity ideas, and even a "boutique" of items that will help motivate workplaces and workers to achieve healthy workplace goals.

The bigger picture

An unhealthy workplace imposes significant and unnecessary costs on employers, workers and their families. For instance, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) estimates the average cost to employers over the whole life of a lost-time injury or illness claim at $30,000. However, employers’ total costs can be more than five times higher due to hidden or indirect costs resulting from

  • damage to property and equipment
  • legal fees
  • time and resources needed to investigate incidents
  • training for temporary or new hires
  • damage to corporate reputation and workplace morale.

Add to these costs the burden of short- and long-term disability due to mental disorders. Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, cites the economic burden of mental disorders in Canada at $51 billion per year, “with almost $20 billion of that coming from workplace losses.” Bradley made these remarks at an official announcement of a national standard for workplace psychological health and safety. Once completed, the standard will provide a step-by-step framework for controlling and eliminating workplace psychological health and safety hazards.

In lost time alone, mental illness is believed to cost Canadian workplaces 35 million workdays every year. That’s almost 25 times the number of days lost to strikes.

Promoting workplace health and wellness can significantly reduce unnecessary costs – financial and otherwise. Worker health is the product of two factors:

  • what workers bring with them to the workplace, in terms of heredity, personal resources, health practices, beliefs, attitudes, and values
  • what the workplace does to workers once they are there, in terms of work organization from the perspectives of physical and psychological safety.

Employers have total control over the second factor, and can strongly influence the first.

Taking action

The Business Case for a Healthy Workplace (see “How we can help,” below), observes that creating a healthy workplace may take time and persistence, but isn’t difficult. The document refers readers to a common approach suggested by Health Canada in its Workplace Health System. This approach reflects standard hazard assessment practices, and consists of seven steps:

  1. Gain commitment
  2. Set up a committee
  3. Conduct a needs assessment
  4. Analyze the health profile
  5. Develop a 3-5 year health plan
  6. Develop specific action plans
  7. Review and evaluate.

How we can help

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) and other prevention system partners offer a range of resources that workplaces can tap into.

  1. Healthy Workplaces topic page has a full list of WSPS resources inlcuding training, consulting, resources and free downloads.
  2. Consulting. WSPS is the exclusive provider of the Excellence Canada (NQI) PEP® Healthy Workplace Program for WSPS member firms and can also provide these services to other Canadian organizations.

Additional resources include the following:

  • Guarding Minds @ Work, a valuable source of tools for assessing risk, creating action plans, communicating, monitoring, and taking corrective action. It’s a free, evidence-based strategy that helps employers protect and promote psychological health and safety in their workplace.