Psychological health and well-being are recognized as essential features of global wellness programs. Psychological health includes emotional and cognitive factors which impact critical thinking and decision making skills Outside of the US, stress ranks #1 or 2 as the top health risk driving wellness strategies. Excessive stress increases risk for cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. Beyond its impact on health, acute or chronic stress can impair cognitive functioning and human performance with consequences for safety, especially in operations characterized as having potentially high risks. Further, excessive stress is often accompanied by lack of sleep and rest, with resulting fatigue and on-the job distractibility. Physical and psychological well-being has been identified as a focus area for understanding human performance. Human performance efforts focus on proactively reducing human failure and its outcomes by improving the interaction between the individuals and critical systems, individual recognition of error-likely situations and applying tools to reduce error. Individual factors like fatigue, stress and distraction - factors that every worker is vulnerable to, given personal circumstances, worries and life events - are known error traps, influencing interactions within work groups and critical systems.
This retrospective study examines cases that demonstrate how work-related and personal stress can impact both health and human performance. We also describe steps that business unit leaders have taken to begin to create an environment where workers feel empowered to admit they need time to address personal health factors.
Data on well-being and engagement provide aggregate information about enablers of productivity across the enterprise. Aggregate data from employee surveys, employee assistance programs, and health risk appraisals indicate that perceived stress varies across the organization, with opportunities for targeted focus on stress in some groups. Despite the intuitive recognition of the importance of physical and psychological well-being to health and safety, factors like stress are seldom directly accounted for in preparing JSA's and are difficult to identify as contributing factors to a health or safety incident. We recognize in this paper that off-the-job crises are happening to the safety-sensitive and non-safety- sensitive workforce every day, likely resulting in preoccupations and distractibility. On occasion, catastrophic accidents draw attention to specific health areas,(i.e., BP Texas City and fatigue) after which strong measures to identify similar risks to safety are activated, however these measures are reactive and are focused on the specific health behavior and not the more common but harder to perceive stressors that threaten safety and productivity.
Tools for supporting the workforce around stress are highlighted, including information about confidential resources for resolution of issues. This paper highlights the role of physical and psychological well-being in influencing workforce health and safety, and provides insights into proactive measures that can influence human performance.