The World Health Organization’s constitution defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’
A healthy workplace is one where workers and managers collaborate to use a continuous improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and wellbeing of all workers and the sustainability of the workplace.
While it is difficult to control what people do, eat, drink or smoke in their own time, and how they are dealing with issues away from the workplace, it is now widely accepted that these issues are directly related to work health and safety.
The costs of sick leave and replacing those workers who are forced to leave due to psychological and physical health problems can be a hidden productivity issue with potential business impacts.
If workers are making unhealthy dietary and lifestyle choices, this can contribute to fatigue and impact on fitness for work. Those who aren’t looking after their health and wellbeing are also less productive and more likely to be involved in workplace incidents.
There are also associated risks such as obesity and long-term chronic disease (e.g. diabetes) impacting on the wellbeing of workers.
And when you consider that workers could potentially be exposed to workplace hazards such as paints, chemicals, fumes and dusts, this can heighten the potential risks of developing chronic health issues.
Well designed and managed workplaces can play a role in promoting worker health and wellbeing, as well as minimising ill health and facilitating recovery and return to work after injury or illness
A mentally healthy workplace protects and promotes psychological health by preventing common psychosocial hazards such as fatigue, bullying, discrimination and stressful working conditions. Use the Wellbeing, Psych and Physical Safety Scan to determine how your business is managing these hazards and other hazards.
Workplaces are increasingly a setting for physical health promotion and preventative activities (e.g. smoking, obesity, drug and alcohol use) to assess and improve people’s overall health as well as reduce work-related injury.
Taking personal care
You are responsible for taking reasonable care of your own safety, health and wellbeing as well as that of others around you. From a personal perspective, taking good care of your health and wellbeing can help you face life’s inevitable stressors and keep you feeling positive and well while you are at work or managing your business.
Effective health and wellbeing promotion can be a shared responsibility between workers and PCBUs. The most effective programs are those where workers feel engaged in the process of identifying problems and developing and reviewing solutions.
If you are given or see an opportunity to help make improvements, provide input and contribute to paving the way to better health and wellbeing at your workplace.
Taking action at work
It also makes good sense to include health and wellbeing as a key part of running any successful business. Work health and safety cultures are led from the top where a PCBU’s actions and attitudes send a message to the people who work for you that you are serious about their safety, health and wellbeing.
Effective work health promotion is also a shared responsibility between PCBUs and workers. The most effective programs follow the same steps as successful safety programs, so any efforts are best done as part of an integrated approach.
Research has shown that healthy workers are almost 3 times more productive than unhealthy workers and record fewer injuries, sick days and work-related injury claims.
Any consideration of health and wellbeing should include the full range of potential risk factors, including:
- alcohol and drugs
- bullying and inappropriate behaviours
- anxiety and depression
- heat and UV exposure
- mental health and workplace stress
- physical activity
- work life balance
- work-related violence.
Improving workers’ health and wellbeing can positively impact on your business profitability, productivity and safety. Research tells us that every $1 spent creating a mentally healthy workplace can, on average, result in a positive return on investment of $2.30.
If you have a team of workers, you need to consider the costs of sick leave and replacing workers who are forced to leave due to health issues. The graphic below shows how implementing a successful workplace health program you can achieve significant cost savings, as well as:
- decrease staff absenteeism/sick leave by an average of 30%
- decrease staff turnover by an average of 10%.
Having a healthy workforce makes even more sense when you also consider that:
- poor worker health and absenteeism costs Australian businesses $7 billion annually, or an estimated $2700 per worker
- unhealthy workers take up to 9 times more sick leave than their healthy colleagues
- not functioning fully while at work due to poor health (called presenteeism) costs Australian business an estimated $26 billion per year in lost productivity
- obesity-related poor health costs South Australian businesses an estimated $273 million per year.
- Preventing Psychological Injury under Work Health and Safety Laws - Safe Work Australia
- Healthy living - SA Health
- Psychosocial hazards and work-related stress safety scan
There are many resources available to help you develop health and wellbeing programs in your workplace or industry sector.
- SA Government: Healthy Workplaces
- SA Health Healthy Workers - Healthy Futures for information, health promotion strategies and case studies
- SA Health: detailed work health audit tool
- Heart Foundation: information on workplace wellness
- Queensland Government: overview of an integrated approach to health, safety and wellbeing under work health and safety laws
- Heads-Up: 7 actions for an integrated approach to creating a mentally healthy workplace
- Healthier Workplace WA: top 10 quick wins to kick start your health and wellbeing program
- Department of Health Healthy Workers Initiative: a range of health resources to assist workers and employers
- healthy living apps: apps most likely to help users change their behaviour and achieve a healthier lifestyle, as reviewed and rated by VicHealth
- Health and wellbeing section of our Farmers’ Guidebook for information, resources and safety scans
- National Centre for Farmer Health: health, wellbeing and safety information, including a support page for farmers experiencing tough times
- Australian Men’s Shed Association: Spanner in the Works, a men’s health and wellbeing initiative
- Rural & Remote Mental Health: workshops and programs promoting mental health awareness, suicide prevention and early intervention for mining, agriculture and indigenous communities
- Farmstrong: Live Well Farm Well tips for farmers on health, sleep and fitness
- Ifarmwell: online toolkit to help farmers cope effectively with life’s challenges and get the most out of every day
- Wellbeing and physical health section of our Automotive Workshops Guide for information, resources and safety scans
- Heads up: creating a mentally healthy workplace for health service professionals
- Nurse and Midwife Support: staying healthy at work
- Nurse and Midwife Support: mental health topics like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health self-care
- Nurse and Midwife Support: wellbeing topics like stress, bullying and harassment, workplace violence, compassion fatigue and burnout
- Royal College of Surgeons: addressing bullying and harassment
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners: addressing self-care and mental health
- AI Group: tools and resources to support work health and wellbeing in manufacturing, including a free online health check
- Department of Health:Transport and Storage Industry Healthy Workers initiative
- Transport Women Australia Limited:a national independent organisation focusing on supporting women dealing with industry issues
- Group Training Australia (SA): healthy workers healthy futures
- Youth Health Line: call 1300 13 17 19
- Child and Youth Health: practical information for parents, carers and young people
SafeWork SA is a SA Health Public Health Partner Authority.
Public Health Partner Authorities are agencies which:
- contribute to key priority areas within the State Public Health Plan, and those emerging through regional public health planning
- operate or impact at a state-wide or regional population level, and/or
- are a key stakeholder for addressing significant public policy issues that impact on population level health and wellbeing.