Reducing Stress In The Workplace – Identifying Workplace Hazards

As a health professional who regularly works with clients in the clinical setting for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders (neck, back, shoulder, lower back pain) as well as one that visits workplaces to conduct ergonomic risk assessments and education, discussions around stress and how this is impacting the individual often forms a part of all of these consultations.  In my experience as a practitioner over the last 13 years, often I would find that mental and physical stress are  inter related and it is difficult to isolate one from the other and therefore it is important to identify aggravating/maintaining/contributing factors to both physical and mental stress and determine if this is something that can be changed for the better or whether further consultation and external help is required.

Recently I was reading the report titled “Reducing stress in the workplace” that was published by VicHealth in 2012 and thought I would highlight some of the key take home messages that I feel are relevant for health professionals, occupational health and safety consultants as well as corporations, clients and workers.

Key Points:

  • The US National Institute for OHS define job stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.   Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury”.
  • Workplace stressors can be defined as psychosocial or physical stressors.
  • Psychosocial stressors include: job demands, job control, job insecurity, bullying, harassment and more.
  • Physical stressors include noise and ergonomic exposures.
  • Australian research has found that around 25% of working women and 18% of working men experience job strain.
  • There are many different individual characteristics (social, biophysical, psychological, behavioural and genetic) that can impact on ones ability to cope/manage/deal with stress in the workplace.
  • Physical workplace stress and health outcomes can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  • Mental workplace stress can result in an increased risk of depression, anxiety disorders, burnout, distress.
  • Behavioural workplace can result increased smoking, alcohol consumption, low physical activity, poor diet and being overweight or obese.
  • In addition to workers or clients being impacted, organizations can also be impacted through reduced workplace productivity due to increased staff turnover, absenteesism (individuals away from work) and presenteeism (decreased on the job performance).    Some estimate as much as 60% of absenteeism is related to stress related illness.
  • Up to 405 of turnover in workplaces has been attributed to stressors at work.
  • high job control has been shown to predict lower absence and presenteeism.
  • Groups at greatest risk of experiencing job strain and associated illness burdens are younger people, working women, those in lower skilled occupations and precariously employed people.  These populations groups are more highly represented in the service sector i.e. health and community services, hospitality.
  • Best practice management approaches should be focused on systems approaches rather than individual level intervention.  A systems approach s beneficial to the individual and organisation.
  • Primary interventions focusing on eliminating or reducing job stressors through hazard elimination, substitute with safer technology, process isolation to contain the exposure and engineering controls to reduce exposure are the most effective.
  • Secondary interventions that focus on altering the way individuals perceive or respond to stressors through administrative controls, training/education, PPE and health surveillance and the next most effective.
  • Tertiary interventions such as treatment/compensation/rehabilitation of employees/workers with job stress related illness through primary health care/allied health care, workers compensation and rehab/return to work programs are the least effective.
  • A good systems approach to managing stress should focus on primary interventions first and foremost.

For those who would like to read the report in full, please click here.

This blog post was written by osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy.  At Principle Four Osteopathy we have an interest in strength and conditioning, exercise prescription and rehabilitation.  Services currently offered at our clinics include:  Osteopathy, Functional Movement Screening, Clinical Pilates, Strength and Conditioning Technique Assessments, Exercise Prescription and Rehabilitation consultations.

Principle Four Osteopathy is located across two locations within Melbourne.  Our clinics are located in the Melbourne City CBD near the corner of Little Bourke St and Elizabeth St as well as Melbourne Docklands on Bourke St. 

Find out more about our clinic or book an appointment at www.principlefourosteopathy.com.

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