Healthy Living in the North

Workplace tragedy is preventable: Steps for Life

This time of year provides us with many opportunities to reflect on the issue of health and safety in the workplace. April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace and the first week of May is set aside as Occupational Safety & Health Week across North America.

Geneviève Fox is a community member in Prince George who is passionate about this issue and keen to raise awareness of health and safety in the workplace. She firmly believes that every worker should be coming home safe at the end of each day and has become involved in shining a light on this issue in Prince George.

I had the pleasure of asking Geneviève a few questions about workplace health and safety and the Steps for Life event that she is helping to organize in Prince George.

Steps for Life poster

“The only work is safe work; workplace tragedy is preventable.” Join Steps for Life in Prince George on May 1st at Masich Place Stadium.

The Steps for Life event in Prince George on May 1st marks the start of North American Occupational Safety & Health Week. Why will you be walking? Why is health and safety at work important to you?

In February 2015, I contacted Steps for Life to ask them when the walk would be coming to Prince George, a community that has been deeply affected by workplace tragedy. They told me it was not planned to come to Prince George and subsequently asked me if I would like to bring the walk to the community. I said yes, and our event will be happening May 1 at Masich Place Stadium. I think this walk is important because of the impact workplace tragedies have had here. It will also promote awareness of the services Threads of Life offers to those families and individuals in need.

What are some key messages for workplace safety that event participants would like residents of northern B.C. to know?

I cannot speak on behalf of the participants as I imagine each would have their own unique message to share. But if I were to generalize, I would say that for all of us involved there is a core, shared belief that every worker in Canada should be coming home safe at the end of each work day.

April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace. What does the Day of Mourning mean to you?

The Day of Mourning is a vital day for all Canadians. We take time on that day to remember the unnecessary loss of life due to workplace tragedy. The Day of Mourning is not only a day for us to pay our respects to, and remember, the fallen, but it also serves as a sombre reminder that we must always stay vigilant and diligent with workplace health and safety, continuously improving our policies, procedures, systems, and practices.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this important topic?

The only work is safe work; workplace tragedy is preventable. Get involved with health and safety at your workplace and stay informed. Remember that you are an important part of the internal responsibility system.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Psychological health and safety in the workplace

Stretch break in an office

Your work environment affects you and you affect your work environment. How do you feel when you start your workday? What about when it ends?

Everyone who has attended school (or who has a child who attends school) can probably think of examples of how the school environment can affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. A child attending kindergarten for the first time may have tummy aches which stem from anxieties around being in a new environment with new people. An older child or teenager may feel depressed or self-conscious about whether they measure up to their peers, or their ability to keep up with academic pressures. However, did you know that the workplace environment and our relationships within it similarly affect us as adults? October is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month and it’s a great time to look at our workplaces.

Take a few moments to reflect or journal, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel (emotionally/mentally/physically) as I’m about to start my workday? Do I look forward to going to work, or do I dread it?
  • How do I feel when I have finished my workday? (e.g., proud, stressed out, frustrated, energized)
  • What is it about work that makes me feel this way? (e.g., work tasks, co-workers, clients, physical work environment, work shifts or hours, pay, supervisor)
  • Do I notice similar thoughts, feelings, or actions in other people at work?
  • How do I affect my work environment and those around me in positive ways?
  • How do I affect my work environment and those around me in negative ways?
  • In what areas could I use some support? (e.g., conflict resolution skills, physical health, emotional health)
  • What can I do to make work a better place for everyone?

Your work environment affects you

If you are part of a healthy work environment, it probably contributes to your overall well-being. For example, if you enjoy work on a day-to-day basis you likely feel enthusiastic and energized about the work you do and have good relationships with those around you. As a result, when you come home at the end of your workday, you probably have energy to be present with your family/friends/pets, have hobbies and activities outside of work, and exude happiness to those around you.

However, if your work environment is unhealthy, it may be a stressor for you. You may feel tired, frustrated, or burned out and this, in turn, can affect your health and home life in a negative way.

You affect your work environment

You go to work with your own attitudes, patterns of relating to others, home-life stressors, and individual level of wellness. These affect others in the workplace. Return to your earlier reflection and choose one thing you’d like to change or follow up on. Plan one action you can take to move in that direction. Challenge a family member/co-worker/friend to do the same! Talking about mental health and wellness is one of the best ways to promote psychological health and safety in the workplace.

In the past few years, there has been increasing recognition that our work environments affect all aspects of our lives and well-being and that healthy, happy employees are more productive and do higher quality work. Canada is the first country in the world to create a standard to guide employers in creating psychologically safe and healthy workplaces. For more information, visit Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

For personal mental health assessments and tips, check out the Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Meter.


A version of this story first appeared in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You.

 

Courtenay Kelliher

About Courtenay Kelliher

Courtenay grew up in Vanderhoof, and completed her BScN at UNBC in Terrace. After a few years of travelling around Western Canada and living in the sweltering Okanagan, she has happily returned to the north to work as an Advisor with Workplace Health & Safety Strategic Directions. Living in Terrace, Courtenay enjoys spending her spare time on outdoor adventures with her fur children and volunteering with the Canadian Ski Patrol and local fire department. When indoors, she can usually be found destroying her kitchen while cooking up new creations to share with friends and social media, with the hopes of inspiring others to prepare their meals from scratch. Courtenay is passionate about occupational health and safety, and loves that her job allows her to work at keeping employees safe so that they can enjoy their hobbies in their spare time as well.

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Workplace celebrations: More than just food

Tea, mugs, and teapot on a table.

Next time your coworker has a birthday or your team completes a major project, celebrate with a tea party instead of the typical treats! When it comes to workplace celebrations, get healthy by getting creative!

From holidays to birthdays, milestones, and achievements, there are plenty of reasons to get together with your coworkers for celebration. It’s great to take those moments to celebrate together. They often provide an opportunity to become a more closely knit team and forget about the stresses of everyday tasks. Often, workplace celebrations are centred on food: birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and other less nutritious treats. And while occasional treats are definitely a part of healthy eating, when they happen too frequently, they can impact our health and productivity in the workplace.

Many of us spend at least ⅓ of our day at work so having a work environment where making the healthy choice the easy choice is important. Since celebrations are social events and great opportunities for team building, it can be hard to decline when offered a cookie or other treat. Some people may feel pressure to take the item in order not to offend anyone or to fit in with the group. Having alternate ways of celebrating and including everyone takes the stress out of the situation for many.

Next time you and your workmates are planning a celebration, why not consider mixing it up with some fun non-food activities or trying some strategies to encourage healthy food celebrations? Here are 10 creative ideas to get you started:

  1. Keep cake a treat. Instead of celebrating with a cake for everyone’s birthday, why not have monthly or seasonal birthday celebrations?
  2. Consider alternative birthday celebrations. Give cards signed by coworkers or have a fun birthday object that the birthday staff member keeps for the day. It could be a pin, sash, hat, or other unique object!
  3. Have a pumpkin carving contest for Halloween.
  4. Hold a decorating contest. Decorate office doors or windows individually or in teams.
  5. Choose to sponsor a local charity.
  6. Plan a group activity. Rent the ice rink, have a bowling tournament, or try rock climbing.
  7. Choose restaurants that offer healthier menu choices. Check out Informed Dining for locations that provide nutritional information.
  8. Ask your caterer to make 80% of the choices healthier options, with 20% being treat food.
  9. Try a healthy theme for office potlucks. Choose a theme that encourages vegetable, fruit, and whole grain options, such as red and green vegetables for Christmas, or a soup and salad bar. Remember to create a sign-up list to ensure variety. List categories of foods and don’t forget extras like cutlery, napkins, or beverages.
  10. Instead of a meal, host an afternoon tea party. Coworkers can bring in their favourite teas to share. Don’t forget to bring your favourite mug, too!

For more information on creating healthy eating environments in the workplace, check out the Eat Smart Meet Smart guide and the Healthier Choices in Vending Machines policy page.


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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Foodie Friday: Healthy snacks for work

Two jars filled with granola.

With a bit of planning and Carly’s tips, your late morning and mid-afternoon snacking trips to the convenience store or cafeteria can be replaced by healthy, energy-boosting snacks that make you feel full!

It’s Monday morning, 10 minutes before you need to leave your house to get to work. You’re frantically searching your cupboards for a snack that will stave off the inevitable mid-morning or late afternoon hunger pang. Instead of saying to heck with it and walking out of your door snackless, only to buy something sugary/fatty/salty from the workplace café later on in the day, I’ve got some ideas for healthy, portable snacks!

Listen to your body – when you feel your stomach grumbling, your brain becoming foggy, or a slight headache coming on, these may all be signs that you need to eat! A healthy snack can boost your energy levels during the busy workday, allowing you to maintain productivity and master the desire (or need) to drink another cup of coffee or raid the office candy stash. A well-balanced snack usually contains at least two of the four food groups and has some protein or healthy fats which help you to feel full.

Here are some ideas for energy-boosting snacks:

  • An apple cut into wedges with several slices of cheddar cheese
  • Peanut butter spread onto a slice of toasted whole grain bread
  • An individual portion cup of yogurt with a handful of granola
  • Carrot and celery sticks with herb and garlic cream cheese
  • A homemade banana chocolate chip muffin
  • Cucumber slices with tzatziki
  • A handful of unsalted mixed nuts

Keep in mind that store-bought snacks like granola bars may be convenient, but they are often loaded with added sugar, fat, and salt, so be sure to read the label to avoid these additives.

The key to healthy and portable snacks may be a little preparation done on a Sunday as well as keeping plenty of packing supplies on hand like reusable containers, plastic food wrap, and re-sealable baggies.

This recipe is a delicious and protein packed granola that I love to add to plain or lightly sweetened yogurt or even to simply eat on its own! I’ve adapted the recipe from Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

Bowl of yogurt topped with granola.

Try to aim for at least two of the four food groups along with some protein and healthy fats for a snack that gives you energy and fills you up! Yogurt and granola are a great option – and making your own granola is easy!

Granola

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole or slivered raw almonds, divided
  • ½ cup raw walnut pieces
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup dried fruit (such as cranberries, apricots, cherries)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil (or other light-flavoured vegetable oil)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275 F (140 C). Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Put ½ cup of the almonds into a food processor and process for about 10 seconds to create a ground meal (similar in texture to sand). Transfer the ground almond meal to a large bowl.
  3. Put the rest of the almonds and the walnuts into the food processor, process until finely chopped. Transfer to the large bowl.
  4. Add the oats, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt to the nut mixture in the large bowl. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until all the dry ingredients are wet.
  6. Spread the granola onto the large baking pan in a 1 cm layer and gently press down on the top to compact the granola slightly. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the granola is lightly browned.
  7. Cool the granola completely and then break into clusters.
  8. Store the granola in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks in the fridge or 4-5 weeks in the freezer.

What’s your favourite workplace snack?

Carly Phinney

About Carly Phinney

Born in Vancouver, raised in the Okanagan, and a recent transplant to the North, Carly Phinney is a Clinical Dietitian at UHNBC. Carly’s interest in food started in the kitchen with her mother - watching her mother’s talent for just “throwing something together” from whatever was in fridge. She loves that, through food and nutrition, she is able to touch people’s lives and help them to make small but sustainable changes that can greatly improve their overall quality of life. Outside of work, you can find Carly in her kitchen baking up a storm or in the mountains hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

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October is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month

2013_CHWM_logo_v2Did you know that there is a Canada-wide initiative that focuses on health in the workplace? In October of each year, Excellence Canada partners with stakeholders to feature the importance of health in the workplace. This year is their 13th annual event and – this year – they have 911 organizations participating and nearly 46,000 participants!

Amongst all this busyness, I was able to connect with Karen Jackson, an advisor for healthy workplace strategies with Excellence Canada, to learn more about the program.

What can you tell me about Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month?

We are celebrating our 13th year as a national program that encourages the promotion of healthy workplaces throughout the year. Our website, Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month® (CHWM), increases awareness of the importance of workplace health and works to ensure both the short-and long-term success of organizations and the well-being of their employees.

October is the annual CHWM campaign, where organizations are encouraged to participate in the weekly activities within their organization to build awareness and encourage workplace fun! This year’s theme is about fostering healthy minds through workplace health, focusing on the ‘mental health connection’ to overall well-being.

What is the primary goal of the campaign?

The goal is to increase the number of healthy workplaces in Canada. Our campaign supports this goal by providing information and tools to help organizations develop and apply a comprehensive approach to workplace health in Canada. This approach involves the three elements of a healthy workplace (health and lifestyle practices; workplace culture and a supportive environment; and physical environment and occupational health and safety).

So, how do people get involved?

It is easy and fun for you and your organization to participate! Our website is a central hub, providing healthy workplace tools, resources and best practice examples. The intent is to help organizations create healthy workplaces with benefits for employees and themselves.

There are a few ways for you to get involved:

  • Register for CHWM and receive tools to help you with your healthy workplace efforts and measure your team’s progress.
  • Showcase your successes by submitting (a one page form) a healthy workplace initiative completed in 2013 and share it with others by being featured on the CHWM website.
  • Challenge yourself and your colleagues with weekly activities that are fun and help to make your organization healthier and happier.
  • Register here to learn about Mental Health at Work® Essentials – a free webinar on October 21 at 2:00 p.m. (EST)/11:00 a.m. (PST)
Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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Tales from the Man Cave: National day of mourning for workers killed or injured on the job

Put on your hard hats

Protect yourself: one injury is one too many and a loss of life at work unthinkable.

This Sunday, April 28th, we reflect on the carnage that injury and death play in the work place.

I can’t help reminisce about working as a young lad in construction in 1976 and the mad men that were my mentors. One of them, John, was in his 50s and was like someone from cirque du soleil. He danced across a 4 inch beam 40 feet in the air and spanning some 20 feet in length. No safety net for a true dare devil. They all were pushing the limits of what was possible and no one ever said, ‘Hey guys, put on a hard hat or tether yourself on that beam!’

I wonder if anyone cared back then.

Personally, at 19 years old, I almost came a cropper on a steel rafter of an old factory’s asbestos roof which we were dismantling. Thirty feet up with acetylene and oxygen torch, I merrily burned my way through a metal beam that was holding the tension on the one upon which I stood. Too much caught up on the prowess of this newly found skill to think about what came next.

Sure enough, what came next was the beam being sprung like a guitar string and me with it. I was up in the air holding on to the beam for my life with one hand while the other held onto the torch which was hundreds of degrees Celsius.

The men came up to the beam and rescued me and it gave them a good laugh for a while. Being the butt of a crew’s jokes is somehow not funny but next time I would take a little more time with my environment.

It was dangerous work and I was not going to stay in that line of business, good money or not, and after a year I was out of there.

In the accident and emergency department of Glasgow Royal infirmary, I met some of those types of men again, guys like John who had fallen 30-40 feet with no helmet and in seriously bad shape. Some never made it and it seemed to me there was a lot of falls back in Glasgow in that month of 1985; many of the men were roofers of the buildings four stories high. I also worked as the industrial nurse at John Browns Engineering in Glasgow for a time and became rather skilled at removing metal from the workers eyes – no one was wearing safety glasses.

Similarly in health care, back injury only became a problem when it started costing money and likewise violence against healthcare workers was swept under the rug as part of the job.

When I look back, I know for sure that we have improved our safety record, but the problem is that one injury is one too many and a loss of life at work unthinkable.

To find out more about National Day of Mourning for those killed or injured on the job, visit the WorkSafeBC website or their list of ceremonies in your area.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Workplace Food Wars

health foods in the candy dish

Celebrate good food together and take the war out of your workplace by sharing food that is a healthy choice for everyone.

I am a foodie. I love to eat good food and share good food with others. However, the last thing I want to find are brownies in the lunchroom for everyone… with a note to please “help” eat them!

I love brownies, but they aren’t a good food choice for my health. They typically have high sugar and fat content and low nutrient value, but if those brownies are on the table, they’ll be on my mind all day. After passing them up fifteen times, I’ll be ready to throw away my common sense, give into the addictive struggle and eat them anyway.

I can control my food environment at home and make sure it’s safe, but how do I manage it at work when I am surrounded by candy dishes, chip bowls, and sweet leftovers people bring in from home? This got me thinking about why people bring food into the workplace. Food can create a friendly environment, an opportunity for conversation and sharing, a brief escape from duties and – in the case of sugar – a short-term sugar high.

Now, to be clear, the challenge is not having food in the workplace. The challenge is the types of food in the workplace. We need to find healthier ways for coworkers to gather, celebrate, and enjoy food together. For example, I’ve had great success with black bean brownies from the new Dietitians of Canada cookbook. I made them and brought them into my workplace. To my surprise, the healthy alternative was quickly eaten and everyone wanted the recipe.

Why should we think about the food we bring to the workplace? Many workplaces (including Northern Health) have policies restricting scents in the office due to allergies. We don’t smoke at work and many schools are nut-free. These policies are in place to keep people safe while at work and, in order to create safer environments, they should be extended to consider the food environment at work.

I encourage you to think about the food environment where you work:

  • Remove the candy from the candy dish.
  • Start the counter-movement and fill the candy dish with healthier alternatives. I have candy jars with almonds, kale chips, roasted chickpeas and often a bowl of fruit.
  • Make a personal statement: “I will not contribute to sweets and unhealthy foods in the workplace.” This means not bringing leftover cakes, cookies, Halloween candy, and Christmas goodies.

Celebrate good food together and take the war out of your workplace by sharing food that is a healthy choice for everyone. Visit our website for more guidelines on living a healthier life.

What health promoting foods do you put in your candy dish?

[Ed. note: Don’t forget to join the September Healthy Living Challenge and enter the Week 2 Challenge for your chance to win a Fit Kit!]

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables! (Christine no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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