Occupational safety and health should take into account psychosocial risks factors: Niosh chairman


KOTA KINABALU: Total wellness programme should be included in the occupational safety and health (OSH) management system to create healthy environment for employees in the country.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said employers must take psychosocial risks factors into account and regarded it as a part of OSH when developing their management system.

"Disregarding the psychosocial aspect, as studies has shown, has a significant role in causing accidents," he said in his speech at the closing of 5th Borneo Occupational Safety and Health Conference and Exhibition (BOSH 2017).

He added Niosh has introduced its Total Wellness and Health Promotion (TWHP) programme in 2003 with the aim to create a sustainable and healthy workforce in the country.

"Our TWHP for example, provides a customised and systematic programme for the industry to help strengthen non-communicable disease prevention efforts including mental illness," he said.

Lee pointed out that there are five categories of health hazards at the workplace – physical, chemical, biological, ergonomics and psychosocial – adding that stress falls under the psychosocial category.

He stressed about 4.2 million Malaysians aged over 16 suffered from various mental problems based on the National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2015.

The number was alarming as it showed an increase of 11.2 per cent compared to a study done in 2006.

In view of this, Lee said all organisations must consider work-related stress and psychosocial risks as part of their safety and health strategy to reduce accidents and injuries at the workplace.

"Managing stress and psychosocial risks at work would create a healthy work environment, where workers feel valued and the workplace culture is more positive and consequently, productivity and business performance improves.

"Although many factors contribute to workers’ mental health and well-being, there is increasing evidence that the workplace environment makes a significant contribution," he said.

Lee noted a good psychosocial environment can be beneficial for workers’ mental health, giving them a greater sense of social inclusion, identity and status, and opportunities for development.

As workers spend one-third of their day at the office, he said workplace issues are one of the major contributors of depression.

"Employers must be aware that the neglect of mental health and psychosocial factors at the workplace is not only detrimental to the individual worker but it also directly affects productivity, efficiency and output of any organisation.

"Employee performance, frequent illness, absenteeism, accidents and staff turnover are all affected by employees’ mental health status," he said.

On BOSH 2017, Lee expressed his satisfaction over the active participation of OSH practitioners from Sabah and Sarawak. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd