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Balance work and family for a safer workplace

This one might be a tough sell with the foreman but a new study conducted for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that a better work-family balance make the jobsite safer and healthier. The Oregon Healthy Workplace Center report found that workers who better managed their time at work and their time with families were less stressed, and that in turn reduced the injury rate and made them more receptive to safety programs.

NIOSH has been pushing what it calls the Total Worker Health program. The Oregon study is part of that initiative. Among the suggestions to take to the boss: Training managers and supervisors need to be more supportive of work and family issues. When the employer recognizes the importance of a healthy work-life balance, employees say they feel better, are more satisfied with their jobs, and talk less about wanting to leave for a new position somewhere else.

Letting employees have more say about their schedule and working hours also seems to help. Increased control of starting times, quitting times, when, where and how the job gets done tends to make workers feel healthier and happier, say the experts. Ditto for flexible scheduling. Flex time gives employees more options for dealing with daycare, arranging supervision for the children during school holidays, and similar schedule challenges. The researchers recommend that management lead by example and take more time to be with their own families, to show employees family time should be a priority for them too. Compiling a quality-time-with-families resource guide is also a good idea, they say.

If the boss hasn't shot coffee out his nose yet at these suggestions, here is the last word from NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard. Lowering stress reduces absenteeism and poor job performance, and that should make the front office happier. Dr. Howard says employers and employees share responsibility for safety on the job. "There is increasing evidence that the work environment and the overall well-being of the workers within it are strongly connected," he says. "Many employers are offering family-friendly benefits and programs for their employees."

Source: Risk & Insurance, "NIOSH: promote work-family balance to reduce workplace injuries," Oct. 29, 2012

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