The business case is clear. To attract and retain talent, health and safety must be a priority. That is the message from more than 1,500 employees, managers, human resource professionals, and C-suite executives who participated in the 2022 Health & Safety Leadership Survey conducted by Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS).
Now in its fourth year, the survey results reveal that attracting and retaining staff is one of the top challenges identified by most employers (59%). However, they also show that employers are grossly underestimating the importance of health and safety to new recruits and employees. According to the survey, only 39% of employers believe prospective employees ask about their health and safety program. In contrast, 73% of employees surveyed say they would need to know about it before accepting an offer of employment. In organizations that are health and safety leaders, more than half of respondents said they would be reluctant to leave even if they were offered more money elsewhere.
“It is no longer seen as a privilege to work for an employer who cares about your health and well-being. That is a base-line expectation for employees,” says Ayden Robertson, a Consultant with WSPS. “If they’re not receiving support on this, employees are going to seek opportunities with organizations that care about them. This is a big culture shift.” Organizations that want to remain sustainable, attract top talent, protect employees, and improve business outcomes are investing in health and safety as a strategic priority.
Workplace mental health is a critical component to success
More people are recognizing that a strong health and safety culture is key to future success. According to the survey, they are also recognizing that health and safety includes mental health and psychological well-being. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents identified mental health related to stress as a major emerging health and safety concern. Stress management, stress from excessive workloads or tight deadlines, and increased sick time related to stress were reported as the main issues contributing to poor workplace mental health.
A large majority of organizational leaders realize this and are concerned about the level of stress that exists in their workplaces. Kristy Cork, a Mental Health Consultant with WSPS, agrees that a lot of organizations have the right intentions, but they’re just not sure what to do. “A lot of workplaces believe that by having an EFAP program, they are creating a psychologically safe work environment. However, referring employees to this resource doesn’t address psychological hazards such as overwork, lack of work/life balance, and time pressures in the workplace,” she says.
Employers need to approach psychological hazards the same way that they approach physical hazards—by putting controls in place to reduce or eliminate the hazard. “If someone had to lift a 50lb rail from floor to waist every 30 seconds, the employee would experience injuries – back, shoulder, neck, etc. For physical hazards like this, we would modify the workstation to protect the workers,” explains Kristy. “When it comes to mental health, the work environment may be causing harm and people may be experiencing distress, but we tell them it’s up to them to use the EFAP and their benefits to get more resilient so they can continue to work and be successful in this environment.”
To address the concerns related to stress, the work environment may need to change. Employers may need to redesign the way people are managed and how work is organized. A good starting point is WSPS’ Mental Harm Prevention Roadmap. It provides organizations with the building blocks to create a psychologically safe workplace. Kristy also recommends that employers review the mental health supports they currently have in place to see if they are delivering the intended results. Involve employees in the discussion and find out what they would most value. A collaborative approach will foster the most effective solutions for everyone, which will help create lasting employee relationships.
How WSPS can help
Health & Safety Leadership Results White Paper
- 2023 Health & Safety Leadership Survey | Safety Sustainability in a Time of Transformation (pre-recorded webinar)
Connect with an occupational health and safety consultant to strengthen your management systems and programs.
Is your business looking to improve its psychological safety? Get started with the Mental Harm Prevention Roadmap. This site takes you step by step through the process of developing a psychologically safe workplace.
Quick Safety Tips: Workplace Psychological Safety - Watch these quick safety tips to find out what it means to have a psychologically safe workplace, the role of managers and supervisors, the positive outcomes on worker mental health and the workplace, and steps to get started.
Check out a variety of mental health and well-being resources to protect employees from mental harm.
Joint Health and Safety Committee Certification Part 1 (in-person or virtual classroom; 3 days)
Joint Health and Safety Committee Certification Part 1 (eCourse; 2 days)
Workplace Mental Health: What Health and Safety Committees Should Know (in-person or virtual classroom; 1 day)