What is a healthy workplace?
A workplace can only be considered healthy if three key elements/avenues of influence are addressed:
- The Physical Environment:
Addressing "traditional" health and safety legislation requirements
- Personal Health Resources:
Supporting healthy lifestyle practices
- The Organizational Culture:
Creating the right psychosocial work environment
These three elements of a healthy workplace influence/impact one another. For a workplace health strategy to be effective, each avenue of influence must be addressed in an integrated, comprehensive manner. Health and safety measures, lifestyle-related programs, and a positive culture that supports these initiatives and employees' psychosocial needs are imperative to a healthy workplace.
What the law says
The Occupational Health and Safety Act, which gives the Government of Ontario broad powers to make regulations, sets out general principles and duties for the workplace parties. The regulations set out in detail how these duties are to be carried out. Many regulations have been made under the Act. For example, there are four separate safety regulations that apply to industrial establishments, construction sites, mines, and health care facilities.
Employers, supervisors, owners and constructors, among others, have an obligation to know and comply with the regulations that apply to their workplaces. Contact your health and safety provider for the specifics on the regulations that cover your workplace.
How having a healthy workplace program can help your business
There is data linking healthy workplace strategies to:
- Absenteeism and turnover
- Accidents, illness, levels of stress and depression
- Insurance claims and costs
- Use of short- and long-term disability
- Health and safety performance
- Employee satisfaction
- Employee engagement
Three things are clear:
- Unhealthy, unsafe and stressful workplaces are costing Canadian employers billions of dollars annually
- Workplace interventions can make significant improvements and save at least 20% of these costs
- Comprehensive, healthy workplace interventions cost far less than they are likely to save the company, returning between $1.15 and $8 for every dollar spent on developing healthy workplaces. Some effective interventions are virtually free.
Source: Creating Healthy Workplaces, 2006
What you can do
- "Gain commitment" from your management and other key stakeholders
- "Do a needs assessment" by identifying health and safety performance issues, compiling a list of existing organizational activities that support a healthy workplace approach, conduct interviews and/or focus groups, and administer a needs assessment survey with employees
- "Analyze the results" of the needs assessment and develop a summary of recommendations
- "Develop a workplace health plan" that clarifies your healthy workplace goals and objectives for the next three to five years; identify success/evaluation criteria, and develop a healthy workplace policy/standard
- "Develop program action plan" that help guide the planning and implementation of culture change activities; provide supervisor and employee training
- "Review and evaluate" your plan and tools, and identify opportunities for improvement and celebration/recognition