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Putting the H back into OHS

13 August 2019

Occupational Health and Safety is evolving. Legislation is changing. Employers understand that employee well-being is a strategic imperative for organizational performance. But how can employers meet changing legislative requirements while supporting employee well-being holistically to reap the gains without hiring a bunch of new staff and investing considerable resources?


It doesn’t need to be complicated. By meeting OHS requirements for JWHS committee – you already have a system in place to support employee health and well-being in a proactive manner to reap the dividends in employee engagement and performance. These committees are a key mechanism to get you where you need to be without investing in considerable resources for a new well-being strategy, a psychological health and safety strategy andan occupational health and safety strategy. Here’s how:

  • Change the name of your department to Occupational Health, Safety and Well-being
  • Appoint or recruit one person from each committee to be a well-being ambassador (they might be an ambassador for both psychological health and safety and other dimensions of well-being or you might want two ambassadors)
  • Add well-being to every agenda and consider topics for discussion listed below
  • Add psychological and physical well-being risk factors to your risk assessments


Now this may seem to be oversimplifying things a bit, but it is the perfect way to get on the right track of supporting employee well-being. To make more gains in organizational performance, integrate employee well-being tactics in other human resource areas such as employee engagement, talent management, learning and development, organizational development and/or performance development – depending on what your organization offers. Better yet, align efforts to support employee well-being with the organization’s overarching vision, mission and objectives.


Topic areas for discussion at JWHS meetings, or for your HR or overarching strategy may include:

  •  Supporting a psychologically healthy and safe culture
    • Preventing and managing stress
    • Preventing, addressing and mediating bullying and harassment
    • Creating trust in management and between colleagues (discuss ways to encourage people to challenge processes/ideas, speak up and share ideas)
  • Creating access to personal health resources
    • How to create greater awareness of employee family assistance programs, linkage to resources at work or in the community that promote physical, mental and emotional wellness and/or offer new resources to support well-being
  • Supporting a healthy management philosophy and business practices
    • How can leaders better model well-being?
    • What practices can better support well-being (flexible work, more autonomy, walking meetings, culture to talk about mental health through the Not Myself Today campaign, holding managers accountable to supporting well-being through performance development, healthy values, better work design etc.)
  • Creating a healthy physical environment
    • Is it easy for employee to bike to work (i.e. – is there safe bike storage), are the stairs friendly for everyday use (stairwell beautification), is there space that can be used to disconnect or exercise?
    • Is there access to nutritious foods nearby, if not, are there lunchrooms that make it easy to store and prepare healthy foods?
  • Connecting to Community
    • How can we as an organization, or departments, better connect to the community? For example, can we offer days to volunteer in causes we all care about or create a partnership to offer discounted access to local recreation centres?


Want more details? Check out this five-step guide to creating a healthy, high performing culture here.


For specific information on OHS and legislation for physical health and psychological health and safety, see:


Blog submitted by Chamber member Wellness Works Canada

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