Enhancing Organizational Safety through Stress Management: Participating on a Corporate Safety Committee Has Enabled an EAP to Help Develop Organizational Initiatives, Including a Stress Management Program

Article excerpt

Lawrence Livermore Nation Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California, has an on-site, internal employee assistance program situated within the Health Services Department (HSD). The EAP provides short-term counseling to LLNL employees and their dependents with personal, family, and work problems.

LLNL's employee assistance professionals are positioned within the laboratory to provide educational outreach and organizational consultation to entire work groups. Our philosophy is that by providing consultation in this manner, we can have a greater impact on the laboratory by reaching a greater proportion of employees. The EAP has developed partnerships with laboratory offices like the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), where organizational support and consultation are provided as part of a long-term plan to achieve organizational initiatives.

The EPD has a Safety Advisory Committee (SAC), whose mission is to serve as a conduit to connect safety awareness, knowledge, and resources with safe work practices. Committee representatives include staff from the EPD department office, each of the three EPD divisions, external work groups that work closely with EPD, and the Health Services Department, including the EAP.

GRASS ROOTS INITIATIVE

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and in response to budgetary concerns, shift in work priorities, and the recent deaths of some employees and family members, the Environmental Protection Department assigned the SAC to develop a department-wide campaign to examine change and stress in the department. The committee developed four questions to brainstorm the issues involved:

1. How is stress introduced?

2. What kinds of stress does the workplace environment create?

3. How can we provide input to, and control, workplace stress?

4. What strategies, plans, or solutions can we develop to help employees reduce and cope with workplace stress?

After discussing these questions, the committee agreed on the need for a stress awareness campaign to teach EPD employees and managers to recognize the various types and symptoms of stress, both within themselves and in other employees. This education would include the identification of internal organizational stressors as well as personal stressors outside of work. The committee formed a Stress Awareness Subcommittee and charged it with developing and launching the campaign.

The campaign officially began in April 2002 as a grass roots initiative aimed at creating greater awareness and sensitivity to individual and organizational stress. The objectives were to build general awareness about job stress, secure top management commitment and support for the program, and solicit employee input and involvement in all phases of the program. The following programmatic goals were established:

* To impart a greater awareness to the client organization (in this case, the EPD) of how stress affects the lives of employees;

* To assist employees in identifying signs and symptoms of stress in themselves;

* To teach multiple individual and organizational strategies on how to reduce stress; and

* To acquaint EPD employees with resources such as the EAP.

In May 2002, EAP staff presented an overview of preventive stress management to SAC leaders. The presentation included a description of available LLNL resources, including the EAP, but focused primarily on helping employees recognize the physical and emotional signs of stress as well as internal, external, and organizational stressors.

Preventive stress management emphasizes individual and organizational prevention methods designed to enhance health, safety, and job performance (Quick, Quick, Nelson, and Hurrel 1997) It teaches employees about the nature and sources of stress, the effects of stress on health, and personal skills to reduce stress. In addition, it helps build a culture of safety awareness in which the organization benefits from improved employee job performance along with a reduction in errors, mistakes, and industrial accidents. …