SAN ANTONIO — From burnout to the newly coined “quiet quit” trend, psychological issues in the workplace are the new slippery slope that can lead to increases in injuries, according to health and safety professionals.
In separate sessions Monday at Safety 2023, the American Society of Safety Professionals’ annual conference, experts discussed what workplaces face in the post-pandemic world, where mental health issues are destigmatized and the link between workplace injuries and psychosocial issues is highlighted. at the forefront.
In a session on disengagement from the workforce, Randy Milliron, safety director for the city of Gillette, Wyoming, pointed to the connection between so-called quiet quitting — as he defined it, the practice of dealing with stressful or adverse work environments by doing the bare minimum — and the dangers of lax safety practices and the damages that may follow.
“So, how does (quiet stop) affect security?”; he said of workers he described as not going beyond the bare minimum required to keep their jobs. “Would they really go the extra mile to do monthly safety inspections? Do they do daily pre- and post-vehicle inspections for the hazards? Do they report hazards? Do they come up with ideas on how to improve safety?”
Citing a recent Gallup poll that found 68% of workers were “disengaged” from their work, Milliron said companies should pay more attention to what workers like and dislike about their jobs and be prepared to act on the information.
“If you’re going to ask for their input, you should listen,” he said. “If they think you’re not listening, they’re going to stop offering solutions. If they don’t feel appreciated, if they don’t feel valued or listened to … it just adds to their disengagement.”
“We have to remember that the mental health of our employees is important,” Milliron said.
In a separate session on psychosocial issues in the workplace, Shelly Meadows, Oakville, Ontario-based co-founder and partner of Navigation Consulting & Training, a company that helps workplaces manage psychological risk factors, said poor mental health correlates with workplace injuries.
Hazardous environments are becoming more risky and safety is often overlooked, she said. “A lot of this is actually driven from a (human) point of view, but to be honest, I tend to think it’s about health and safety,” she said. “If you have unabated stress, you have an increase in workplace accidents.”
Co-presenter Martin Franchi, Toronto-based partner at Navigation Consulting & Training, said ergonomics and stress are also linked.
“If half your workforce is very stressed, they’re like this,” he said, imitating a worker hunched over a computer. “All your muscles are tense and you will develop musculoskeletal disorders.”
The solution, experts say, is to talk to workers to ask about mental health issues and why they might feel disconnected.
“Treat this as an accident investigation,” Milliron said. “You have to ask hard questions.”
“Psychosocial hazards should be assessed in the same way as physical hazards,” Franchi said. “It’s the exact same approach… but it’s abstract. It’s probably going to be one of the tough conversations you’re going to have” in the workplace.