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Colorado School of Public Health


Global Healthy Workplace

Dr. Lee Newman - April 18, 2013

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a Healthy Workplace Framework, which focuses on 5 key steps to address the need for all businesses to contribute to the health of their workers. With increasing recognition of the role the OSH professionals can play in promoting worker safety, health, well-being and productivity, I encourage all of you to take a look:

                                 Healthy Workplaces

The WHO framework set the stage for the inaugural Global Health Workplace Awards and Summit, held in London, England (April 10 - 12). We joined participants from 26 countries who share passion for worker safety and health.

The two-day exchange of experiences came from wildly divergent perspectives of small/medium-sized enterprises ("SME"), large businesses, public health, occupational health and safety, economics, epidemiology, and from countries like South Africa, Singapore, India, Japan, Finland, and others.

I'd like to share with you just two of the (many) ideas presented by Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, Expert Advisor on Health and Work to the Department of Health, England, UK. She is a renowned rheumatologist who stepped in to this role with noe preconceived notions on the subject (she's quick to add).

Here are two thoughts from her lecture that I'd like to share:

1.) The role of company leadership in worker health is understudied yet critically important. 

"Leadership is a serious challenge," she said. By way of example, she cited an intriguing recent study showing that company leadership is a major predictor of work related back pain. You'll find the paper interesting -- Christensen and Knardahl Eur J Pain 2012 Jul;16(6):921-33

2.) The mental health of workers must not be overlooked.

We can expect to see an increase imperative for employers to "provide a psychologically safe workplace." She expects to see others follow the lead of Canada, which released a Canadian National Standard in January 2013 that is voluntary (for now) but that is likely to increasingly become a legal responsibility of employers.

It is exciting to see how Canada is leading the world by addressing mental health and stress from a policy standpoint. (National Standard of Canada CSA Z1003/BNQ9700-803 Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace)

Check out this brief cartoon on youtube:

National standard for psychological health and safety in Canadian workplaces


Lee Newman, MD, MA

Director, Center for Worker Health and Environment


Colorado School of Public Health

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