Editor’s note: This is the second story in a two-part series on psychological safety in the workplace. It will provide supervisors and managers with some guidance on how to combat it.
Meet Phil, the president of a mid-sized company that has a huge safety problem. Phil would scoff at the suggestion that there’s any sort of problem with safety and he’d proudly produce his company’s OSHA records as evidence.Read More
Editor’s note: This is the second story in a two-part series on psychological safety in the workplace. Part one last month looked at how employers are increasingly risking legal action if a workplace is injurious to workers’ mental health and this second part will provide supervisors with advice on how to maintain a psychologically safe workplace.
A truck driver with diabetes is sent on a run from Ontario to the US for a delivery on a timeline he can’t possibly meet. He is angry with the dispatcher, whom he believes deliberately set him up to arrive late at his destination.Read More
More than seven million workers across North America—including lift truck operators, heavy duty equipment operators, agricultural workers and truck drivers—are exposed to whole body vibration.
Fortunately, supervisors and safety directors can do plenty to reduce workers’ exposure to vibration-related illnesses and injuries.
Whole body vibration is transmitted through a seated worker’s buttocks or through the feet of a standing worker. There are a number of negative health effects caused by long-term exposure to whole body vibration, including neck and lower back pain, fatigue, headache, insomnia, high blood pressure, kidney problems and hemorrhoids.Read More
This is the first story in a two-part series on psychological safety in the workplace. It will examine what psychological safety is and how the problem is growing. Part two will give supervisors and managers some guidance on how to combat it.
Think of safety in the workplace and you’re more likely to think of hardhats and harnesses than how a worker is coping mentally with the way he or she is being treated on the job.
But psychological safety is a growing area of concern in workplaces across North America. If you don’t know much about the topic, it’s in your best interest to acquire some knowledge to help you assess the psychological safety of your workplace and address any problems before they get out of hand.Read More
Editor’s note: This is the first story in a two-part series on psychological safety in the workplace. Part one will examine how employers are increasingly risking legal action if a workplace is injurious to workers’ mental health and part two next month will give supervisors advice on how to maintain a psychologically safe workplace.
Ten years ago in Canada, only gross acts of employee harassment, discrimination and bullying resulting in severe depression, anxiety or suicide would have been seen by the legal system as behavior that was “mentally injurious” to the victim.
But the bar on what constitutes mentally injurious behavior in the workplace has been lowered considerably since then, according to Dr. Martin Shain, an Ontario lawyer/criminologist.Read More
You don’t know what the future holds, but you can create a safer one for your workers by using hindsight gained from previous incidents that have occurred in your workplace.
So says Iowa environmental health and safety (EHS) manager Gerald Edgar. Safe Supervisor asked him for some hypothetical examples of situations which may have occurred within the past year and lessons supervisors should take away from them to help prevent future incidents.
Scenario 1: You are buried in paperwork and haven’t been spending enough time supervising your workers on the floor lately. It’s hard to tell your workers you are concerned about their safety when you are nowhere to be seen. There was a close call last month that could have resulted in serious injuries or worse. You are afraid that something serious may happen in the future when you are in your office doing paperwork.
Solution: Edgar suggests cutting down on paperwork by creating computerized forms that have much of the repetitive information already filled out, or delegating certain tasks to members of the safety committee. You can also ask the plant safety manager or a safety committee member to give a safety demonstration, provide handouts or run a meeting, thereby freeing up some of your time.Read More
Editor’s note: If you think workplace health and wellness programs are a waste of effort, the following account might make you think again.
One of England’s largest universities says it is saving the equivalent of about $116,000 a year since implementing a comprehensive workplace wellness program two years ago.Read More
Some oil field workers in Oklahoma have unknowingly been carrying lead home on their clothing and exposing their children to it.
The Oklahoma Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (OCLPPP) reports that workers may come into contact with pipe dope, a threading compound that potentially contains a large amount of lead.Read More
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says it will soon begin a multi-year study examining the potential health effects experienced by workers involved in the cleanup of the Gulf oil spill—the largest in US history.
The NIH says it will spend $10 million and an additional $10 million has been pledged by BP. The NIH will have full autonomy on how the BP money is spent, with input from external scientific experts in environmental health.
“It was clear to us that we need to begin immediately studying the health of the workers most directly involved in responding to this crisis,” says NIH Director Francis Collins.
The study will focus on workers’ exposure to oil and dispersant products and potential health consequences, including respiratory, neurobehavioral, carcinogenic and immunological conditions. It will also look into mental health concerns and oil spill related stressors such as job loss, family disruption and financial uncertainties.
“Clean up workers are likely to be the most heavily exposed of all population groups in the Gulf Coast region,” says Dale Sandler, chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and lead researcher on the study.
“We plan to enroll workers with varying levels of exposure. For example, we hope to recruit workers involved in oil burning, skimming and booming, equipment decontamination, wildlife cleanup and those with lower exposure, such as shoreline clean-up workers,” he adds.
People who completed worker safety training but did not have the opportunity to do any clean-up work, will also be compared to their counterparts who went on to conduct clean-up work.
“What we learn from this study may help us prepare for future incidents that put clean-up workers at risk,” says Sandler.Read More
Throughout North America, employers have become increasingly intolerant toward sexual, religious, cultural, gender or racial discrimination toward workers.
Now there is a push in many jurisdictions to eliminate age discrimination against employees who have reached age 65, but want to continue working. In spite of legislation aimed at protecting workers who don’t wish to retire, many employers haven’t quite grasped their responsibilities, according to Robert Smithson, a lawyer specializing in employment and labor laws.
Smithson, of Pushor, Mitchell LLP, warns that many supervisors are engaging in age discrimination without even realizing it, by making comments such as, “Hey, Gramps, do you think you can lift that box or should I get Billy to help you?”
If “Gramps” is suddenly fired on the basis that he is no longer capable of performing his job and he lodges an age discrimination complaint with a human rights board, any negative comments you or others have made about his age can come back to haunt you, says Smithson.
“If my experience is an indicator, age-based discrimination claims are on the rise,” says Smithson. “The first key indicator of discrimination is the timing of the termination.”
If a worker who has met performance expectations over the years is suddenly let go upon reaching age 65 and the employee lodges an age discrimination complaint, the timing of the firing will be a red flag to a human rights board investigating that complaint.
“The second key indicator is loose, age-related comments such as ‘Why are you still here? Shouldn’t you be retired?’”
Smithson says workplaces need to implement and enforce policies banning age discrimination or harassment and provide age sensitivity training to all workers.
Dealing with reduced productivity and health-related absences:
Let’s say you have a worker age 65 or older who is showing a marked reduction in productivity, is no longer meeting the demands of the job, or is taking excessive sick days for medical reasons. Before terminating that person’s employment, the employer needs to be able to prove that it has taken reasonable steps to accommodate the worker to the point of undue hardship.
“The employer has to get past subjective ideas about employees being too old for a job. Think about objective, measurable job requirements,” says Smithson.
In other words, you need to be able to prove that the worker’s productivity has slipped or his/her quality of work is no longer acceptable, by citing hard numbers. For example, an employer could note that “Bob” built an average of five widgets per hour five years ago but now he can only build two and furthermore, the percentage of defects in Bob’s work caught by quality control has tripled over the past number of months or years.
“The ultimate question asked (by authorities examining age discrimination complaints) is always ‘Why was this employee selected for termination?’”
How to accommodate workers past age 65
Smithson says there are several ways to entice older workers who are not performing as well as they once did to leave. One approach is to offer the option of working fewer days or hours and easing into retirement.
Another is to reach a mutual agreement with the worker to reduce his or her responsibilities by moving that person into a lower-level job at a reduced rate of pay. Other options include offering that person an attractive retirement package or some other form of enticement to give up the job.Read More