10th EWHN Conference for labour & occupational health and safety representatives and professionals
“Workers finding a voice in a new Europe"
Friday September 29th to Sunday October 1st 2006, 
Baltic Beach Hotel, Majori, Jurmula, 
Latvia

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Topical Workshop 8

10th European Work Hazards Network Conference 2006

29th September – 1st October 2006; Baltic Beach Hotel, Jurmala, Latvia

Topic Workshop 8: Workplace Health Promotion

Facilitated by Gerhard Elsigan, Austria, and Kathy Jenkins, Scotland

The workshop began by the facilitators introducing themselves and reminding participants of the remit for the workshop:

Workplace Health Promotion can mean different things to different groups of people. How do trade unions, employers, governments see it? What do we mean by health promotion in the workplace? The workshop will explore the relationship of workplace health promotion to occupational health and health and safety and the importance of collaboration and integration between three disciplines/activities. We will look at the principles of health promotion, as agreed internationally and articulated through the World Health Organisation. Important gaps in the present management of occupational health and safety will be identified. The process of developing workplace health promotion programmes will be discussed. We will also look at the problems people often face in undertaking this work and how they might be overcome. Delegates will have an opportunity to talk about health promotion work they are involved in or know about in their own countries and to hear from others. There will be time to think about the key hazards/risks/ areas of activity for workplace health promotion, for example, working hours/work-life balance; mental health/stress; violence and aggression; alcohol/drugs/smoking….We will also discuss current political pressures on workplace health promotion and some of the potential pitfalls, for example workplace health promotion being used to cover up poor management of basic health and safety. We will aim to pull together

The facilitators also drew links between this workshop and other themes of the conference, eg deregulation, behaviour based safety, the role of specialists…

As this was one of the workshops with interpretation, the workshop then split into language groups to discuss two questions:

  1. How you define Workplace Health Promotion – what does it involve?

  2. What are the main issues you have addressed through Health Promotion?

Feedback indicated that participants from all countries had a fairly broad definition of Health Promotion, including ‘traditional’ health and safety issues, occupational health issues and more individual/lifestyle issues. In some cases, there was more emphasis on the lifestyle issues, but as can be seen from the list given below, most groups reported a wide range of health topics. Issues that had been addressed included: working hours (common in the Baltics to be working 60+ hours per week), reduction of overtime worked (especially in the construction industry), adequate breaks from work, work environment, adequate pay, healthy food, provision of drinking water, ergonomics, dealing with psychological problems, stress management services, relaxation, sport – union organized days, access to fitness centres, exercise opportunities at the workplace, smoking cessation support, provision of occupational health services, personal protective equipment, trade union collective agreements and inclusion of medical cover, good knowledge among employees and employers of health risks, conditions, legislation and legal case law, ensuring that workers observe precautions – provision of good information and training, change emphasis from just ‘safety’ to also include ‘health’.

It was clear that the biggest issue was working hours, coupled in the Baltics with low pay.

This was followed by brief presentations by both facilitators on:

  • Relationship of workplace health promotion to occupational health and health and safety;

  • International principles of workplace health promotion;

  • Description of the process of developing workplace health promotion;

  • The overlapping roles of management, worker, union and specialists in occupational health, safety and health promotion.

The material covered in these presentations is given in the attachments accompanying this report.

Both facilitators gave a brief description of a case study. Information on these is included in the attachments accompanying this report.

Participants in language groups then discussed the questions ‘What are the main problems with workplace health promotion’ ‘What would like to happen now?’ first from the perspective of employers and then from the perspective of workers.

The main problems/concerns highlighted were:

From perspective of employers:

  • Costs

  • What happens if we raise expectations among employees that we might not able to fulfill?

  • No employee buy in

  • This may need lead to policies targeted at people versus needs of business

From the perspective of workers:

  • Unsure whether should participate? What is the real agenda?

  • Trust or lack of it

  • All depends on level of social responsibility of employers

What is wanted now:

  • a combination of top down and bottom up approaches. Involvement of workers in the whole process

  • good information and training for employers and employees

  • good co-ordination of all health management activities (health promotion being one part of a larger whole)

  • shift of emphasis from only ‘safety’ to wider ‘health’

  • must address long working hours – aim for long, healthy life and continued ability to work

  • must link pay levels with health (and working hours)

  • good information and training

  • involvement of insurance companies in funding HP (in countries where this is relevant)

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