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Psychological health and safety in sawmills

June 7, 2024  By Patrick McDonald

Photo © netrun78 / Adobe Stock

In the tumultuous landscape of the Canadian wood products industry, specifically in B.C. where mills are shutting down and jobs are being lost, the importance of psychological health and safety (PH&S) has never been more pronounced.

Despite the industry’s struggles, there’s a growing recognition of the need to nurture a supportive and inclusive work environment.

Before delving into practical strategies for prioritizing PH&S, it’s crucial to understand the core functions of the Guarding Minds at Work framework. This framework provides a structured approach to assessing and enhancing PH&S, encompassing three main components: the Employee Survey, the Organizational Review, and the Stress Satisfaction Scan.

Understanding employee Experiences
To effectively address PH&S concerns, it’s imperative to understand employee experiences and stressors. Insights learned from stress satisfaction scans shed light on key factors impacting employee well-being. Statements related to involvement in decision-making, recognition for effort, time pressure, mental fatigue, fairness, and supervisory support offer valuable insights into the stressors and satisfiers present in the workplace.


Tailoring initiatives
Armed with knowledge of employee experiences, companies and management teams can tailor initiatives to mitigate stressors and enhance satisfiers. For instance, addressing concerns regarding time pressure and mental fatigue through workload management strategies can alleviate stress and improve overall job satisfaction. Similarly, fostering a culture of fairness, respect, and recognition can bolster employee morale and engagement.

Empowering employees
Empowering employees by involving them in decisions that affect their work can serve as a potent stress mediator. Management teams can champion initiatives aimed at increasing employee autonomy and decision-making authority,  thus fostering a sense of control and ownership over their work. Regular feedback mechanisms and participatory decision-making processes can further reinforce employee empowerment and well-being. A good example of an employee driven safety initiative would be to introduce a MOC (Management of Change) process, which includes various employee levels during the planning stage of a workstation change.   

Enhancing supervisory support
Supervisory support plays a pivotal role in mitigating workplace stressors and promoting PH&S. Ensuring that supervisors, including safety managers as part of the management team, are equipped with the necessary skills and resources to support their teams effectively is paramount. Training programs focusing on communication, conflict resolution, and supportive leadership can empower supervisors to provide the guidance and assistance needed to navigate challenging situations and support their teams.

Monitoring progress and adaptation
Continuous monitoring and adaptation are essential components of a robust PH&S strategy. Management teams should regularly assess the effectiveness of initiatives through employee feedback, stress satisfaction scans, and performance indicators. By staying attuned to evolving employee needs and adjusting strategies accordingly, organizations can cultivate a culture of resilience and well-being.

In the face of industry challenges, prioritizing psychological health and safety is not just a moral obligation but a strategic imperative.

By leveraging insights from employee feedback and stress satisfaction scans, companies and management teams can develop targeted initiatives to address stressors, enhance satisfiers, and foster a supportive work environment. Through proactive measures and ongoing adaptation, organizations can navigate turbulent times while safeguarding the well-being of their most valuable asset, their employees.

For more information, check out Guarding Minds at Work at www.guardingmindsatwork.ca.

 Patrick McDonald is the owner of Kootenay Safety Services in Cranbrook, B.C. He is a seasoned safety consultant with over 15 years of experience specializing in industrial manufacturing. Reach him at patrick@kesafety.ca

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