David LeGrande, R.N., Former CWA National Health and Safety Director, HWC Labor Outreach Strategist Peter L. Schnall, M.D., Center for Social Epidemiology Paul Landsbergis, Ph.D., School of Public Health, SUNY Downstate, NY Pouran Faghri, M.D., School of Public Health, UCLA
Labor unions, worker health & safety advocates are dedicated to improving the working conditions and health & safety of working people. Given this objective, these organizations are in a unique position to address the risks of psychosocial work hazards and to implement enforceable work organization improvement through collective bargaining, legislation, regulation and labor-management partnerships. However, many of these efforts go without evaluation by occupational health researchers. Like many organizations in the United States, labor unions and worker health and safety advocates have not given sufficient attention to psychosocial working conditions and work stress. In this presentation we will show how the tools and resources developed by the Healthy Work Campaign, including the online Healthy Work Survey, can be used by labor organizations to better assess harmful work organization/stressors and evaluate improvements they make.
The Healthy Work Campaign (HWC) and website www.healthwork.org was launched in December 2018 as a public health campaign with the mission to raise awareness in the U.S. about the health impacts of work stress on working people. HWC goals include reducing harmful work stressors through education, assessment of the workplace, and providing tools and intervention resources that individuals and organizations, including labor unions and worker health & safety advocates, could use to implement organizational change and advance healthy work. As part of this project, sponsored by the non-profit Center for Social Epidemiology and in collaboration with university researchers, we developed an online assessment tool, the Healthy Work Survey, so that individuals and organizations can assess the level of work stressors in the workplace. Currently, in the U.S. there is no standardized way to identify psychosocial hazards in the workplace that contribute to illness or injury among working people. Therefore, the new Healthy Work Survey is intended as a ?work organization assessment tool?, that includes key, scientifically-validated, work stressor domains that are known to be risk factors for chronic disease in the scientific literature (e.g., depression, cardiovascular disease (CVD), musculoskeletal disorders) [1-6], as well as with injuries and productivity outcomes (e.g., sickness absence, presenteeism) [7, 8]. The HWS uses items and domains from existing scientifically validated survey instruments – particularly (but not limited to) the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Quality of Work Life (QWL) survey . Additionally, the HWC developed a series of Healthy Work Tools for Unions (and for Employers) based on existing ?best-practices? in participatory programs such as the Healthy Work Participatory Program (HWPP) . The tools include steps the organization can take after using the HWS to engage workers in a participatory process starting from the survey data and using case study examples (Healthy Work Strategies) of what other unions or organizations have done to address work organization.
The HWS underwent rigorous psychometric testing and validation of the QWL scales using GSS data (a manuscript is in progress). As well, we received feedback about the content and the online report system from stakeholder groups. The HWS is currently available for free on the Healthy Work Campaign website along with resources to explain how to administer it. Organizations can request access to the survey through a click of the button and a unique link will be sent to the organization which can then be emailed to workers to complete the survey, anonymously and confidentially. Workers are provided written informed consent at the beginning of the survey screen, explaining that their participation is voluntary and can be ended at any time. They are also given a choice to receive an automated, confidential, personal report of their work stressor scores. Organizations, once enough workers respond, will receive an automated group-level, aggregate report that compares the group scores to national distributions derived from several waves of the GSS/NIOSH QWL national survey. The next stage is to pilot test the use of the system with a labor union local or regional group of workers, including focus groups with workers and labor representatives.
We will present visual information and details on how the HWS, reports and other tools are meant to be used by unions and other organizations. We are currently outreaching to labor organizations in California, intending to have some interview data from representatives about the utility of the system and focus groups with workers using the HWS to get feedback on the content and experience and follow-up regarding a participatory approach to using the data to organize towards workplace improvements for health and safety.
We hope to present some preliminary findings from the pilot testing and discuss the utility of the HWS system by labor unions and in certain worker populations.
Use of the Healthy Work Survey by labor unions and eventually other public or private sector organizations, with minimal input by researchers, will represent a significant tool for identifying and potentially addressing psychosocial hazards in the U.S.