Advancements in technology, skills, and work methods are bringing with them an increasing awareness of the possible psychosocial hazards that can arise in the work place.
This was pointed out today by Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, as he addressed the start of a seminar on Emerging Issues in Health and Safety, hosted by Regal Development Solutions, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.
Calling the seminar “fitting”, Minister Jordan said it provided the opportunity to consider what was happening in the area of Occupational Safety and Health, changes affecting the way business is conducted and the impact on workers.
He added that it came as the International Labour Office, celebrating its centenary anniversary, was also reflecting on changes and advancements in technology in the world of work and “the need to effectively plan for the changes that will undoubtedly occur in the future”.
Outlining some of the psychosocial hazards, the Labour Minister said there were concerns related to stress, violence, mental health, harassment, discrimination, and fatigue.
He said: “These are not new issues, but with the recent changes in our work environments, the impacts of these concerns are brought into sharper focus. Increased competition, higher expectations of performance and the need to work longer hours are contributing to the workplace becoming a more stressful environment.
“The increased demands that are now being placed on employees at all levels, as well as the presence of cell phones, are resulting in a blurred and increasingly almost non-existent demarcation between work duties and personal life. I don’t know how we are going to get around that … but at all levels we are expected almost on a 24-hour basis to be available to those who pay us.”
Mr. Jordan also noted that the economic climate and family responsibilities, including care of the elderly and children, were among the factors significantly affecting the mental health of workers.
Adding that quality of life, rest and relaxation were often overlooked and underrated in today’s society, where there was emphasis on “a constant state of busyness”, he said a growing number of people did not know how to rest and relax.
He cautioned: “Some persons, because of their hectic schedules and increased workload, just never have time to unwind and become involved in activities outside of the world of work. This leads to those previously mentioned issues of stress, burn out and fatigue.
“Most times, the persons who are most vulnerable to fatigue are those involved in the shift system, whether they are night, long or irregular shifts. Sometimes, we may have situations where persons work double shifts to fill in for absent colleagues or to generate larger pay cheques or consistently work overtime to meet unrealistic deadlines.”
In respect of the new technologies, he noted that there would be a need to educate and train workers in the correct and safe use of any new equipment or methods to be implemented.
“They will need to be able to recognize potential hazards and know how to respond to any events that may arise as new technologies and new methods are used. And these would include reporting protocols and emergency procedures,” Mr. Jordan stressed.