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Putting the H Back into OHS

Updated: Aug 16, 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 investing considerable resources?


It doesn’t need to be complicated. By meeting OHS requirements for a joint work-site health and safety (JWHS) committee (s) – 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 can be 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 and an 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, disability 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:


1. Supporting a psychologically healthy and safe culture

  • Preventing, recognizing and addressing stress

  • Preventing, recognizing, 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)

2. 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

3. 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, Mental Health First Aid etc.)

4. Creating a healthy physical environment

  • Is it easy for employees 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, do you have sit-stand desks or meeting rooms?

  • Is there access to nutritious foods nearby, if not, are there lunchrooms that make it easy to store and prepare healthy foods?

5. 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 our five-step guide to creating a healthy, high performing culture here. For more resources, become a member of Wellness Works Canada.


For specific information on OHS and legislation for physical health and psychological health and safety check out these links:


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Northwest Territories

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Suite 2020 Tower 1
Edmonton, AB T5J 3R8

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