Introduction In Japan, there were over 30 000 suicides per year, from 1997 to 2011. Suicides by working adults accounted for 60% of the total. The main reason was depression. The Occupational Safety and Health Law was partially revised in December 2015, and workers’ stress checks were implemented at workplaces with more than 50 workers. The stress check system is required not only for personal health support but also for group-based analysis to improve ease-of-work in the workplace environment. It imposes two roles on occupational health nursing professionals: individual support and workplace environment improvement.
Methods Occupational health nurses (1) interview all high stress workers for about 30 min and extract organisational problems, (2) combine group analysis of stress checks and the results of interviews and (3) communicate the workplaces’ problems to management. In workplaces with several high stress people, OHNs advise management to hold workplace meetings in order to discuss how to create a comfortable workplace environment. These are meetings are conducted through the method of Participatory Action-Oriented Training. OHNs also educate managers in creating comfortable work environments.
Results Through the efforts of OHNs, workplace communication has improved and group stress levels have been alleviated. Also, productivity has improved and the number of worker suicides is gradually decreasing.
Conclusion Today, as 75% of our workers are in the service industry, a major health problem in occupational health is becoming mental health. Therefore, it is important for OHNs to grasp the stress levels of workers and assess stress factors in the workplace. It is occupational health nursing professionals that workers can honestly talk to about their feelings. Moreover, it is important to communicate the stress factors of the workplace to management, in order to improve the workplace environment.
To that end, occupational health nursing professionals need to collaborate to improve service quality, so the Japan Society for Occupational Health has created a system of in-service education based on the occupational health nursing career ladder. Occupational health nursing professionals constantly develop skills that can support health, individuals, groups and organisations.
Utilising stress check leads to comprehensive mental health measures, ultimately leading to a decrease in suicide. In the current Occupational Safety and Health Law, occupational health nursing professionals are positioned as hygiene managers, but since nursing has a large role in health management, including mental health, occupational health nursing jobs are clearly defined in the law.
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