Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Prevalence and Factors Related to Canadian Workplace Health Programs

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Prevalence and Factors Related to Canadian Workplace Health Programs

Article excerpt


Background: This study documented the prevalence and factors related to workplace health programs in Canada, including Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), drug testing programs, and Health Promotion Programs (HPPs).

Methods: A representative sample of 565 Human Resources Managers at worksites with 100 or more employees across Canada completed a questionnaire on the worksite characteristics and the types of programs at their workplace (response rate = 79.8%).

Results: EAPs were established in 67.8% of sampled worksites (95% Cl: 63.9%-71.7%). The proportion of worksites with EAPs varied significantly across work sectors (p<0.001) but not across regions of Canada. Worksites with EAPs had significantly (p<0.001) fewer visible minorities and had more unionized employees (p<0.001) than worksites without EAPs. For drug-testing programs, about 10.3% of Canadian worksites have them (95% Cl: 7.8%-12.8%). Significant differences were noted across regions (p<0.001) with Alberta most likely to have such programs (25.4%) and Ontario least likely (4.6%). Also, safety-sensitive worksites and those with United States ownership were significantly (p<0.05) more likely to have drug testing. The most common type of HPP was fitness programs (29.4%) and the least common was day/elder care programs (5.5%). Fitness programs were most common in the Eastern provinces and least common in Quebec.

Conclusions: Overall, Canadian worksites favour a health promotion and treatment approach over a deterrence approach for addressing health and substance use issues in the workplace. Workplace health programs were related to several factors that have created an uneven system of health promotion, treatment and deterrence in Canadian worksites.

MeSH terms: Substance abuse detection; Employee Assistance programs; health promotion; baseline survey; worksite

Three broad kinds of programs have been adopted in Canadian workplaces to address employee health issues, including substance abuse problems: Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), Drug-testing Programs and Health Promotion Programs (HPPs). EAPs are workplace programs where employees with alcohol, drug, or other personal, behavioural or family problems can receive short-term counselling. Evaluations of EAPs showed a variety of benefits of early programs (i.e., those that were alcohol only with supervisory referrals) in terms of reduced absenteeism, job accidents and medical costs.1 Evaluations of the modern-day Canadian EAPs show that most EAP clients are satisfied with the helpfulness of the counsellors,2,3 but the impact of these interventions on tangible work outcomes is not conclusive.1,2 Drugtesting programs aim to identify drug users by chemically analyzing the bodily fluids (typically urine) of employees for metabolites of certain psychoactive drugs, such as cannabis or cocaine. A limitation of urine tests is that they detect prior use of drugs rather than current impairment.4 Existing studies have methodological limitations and have not convincingly demonstrated that drug testing significantly reduces job accidents.4,5 Workplace HPPs typically offer educational, organizational, or behavioural interventions designed to support positive health maintenance behaviours that are conducive to the well-being of all employees in a worksite. They can include a variety of specific programs such as fitness activities, stress management, dissemination of health-promoting information, assistance with healthy lifestyles and provision of supervised day care. Recent reviews of the literature indicate they are related to improved health and work performance3 and to lower levels of absenteeism and health care costs.6 Underlying each type of program is a different rationale for addressing drug and alcohol use in the workplace. HPPs address health promotion and prevention, EAPs emphasize early intervention and treatment, and drug-testing programs emphasize deterrence (detection and coercive interventions for drug users). …

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