Occupational wellbeing study commences in the paper industry

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Occupational wellbeing is a central issue in an industry that is undergoing powerful regeneration after experiencing significant changes in recent years.

The Finnish Work Environment Fund has granted €150,000 to fund the two-year study, which will be carried out by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), in addition to which the participating corporations will allocate personnel resources to assist researchers.

The aim of the study is to examine the current state of occupational wellbeing among paper industry workers as well as to identify its different constituent factors and the causes behind absences. Another aim is to look for best practise operating models, which have improved workplace wellbeing and led to reductions in absence rates.

The two-year study is scheduled for completion by the end of 2009, but the intention is to immediately apply in practice the knowledge accumulated during its course.

Production facilities from eight locations around Finland have been selected as research subjects. Occupational wellbeing will be examined through personal interviews, case studies and in workshops in cooperation with local actors, such as occupational health care professionals.

Sickness absences and workplace accidents amounted to 7.5% of the regular working time of paper industry employees in 2006 – this is equivalent to almost 18 working days per person. Annual leave and absences are counted into regular working time. The average industrial rate of absence was 6.7% in Finland in 2006.

Absences cause additional labour costs for employers and weaken profitability in tight competition. From the employee’s perspective, it is worthwhile to examine whether all possible measures have been taken to both aid recovery and improve the quality of life.

The steering group of the study, titled Development of workplace wellbeing and management of sickness absences in the paper industry, comprises Chief Medical Officer Jarmo Taipale of Stora Enso (chairman), docent Anneli Leppänen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, who is in charge of the study, safety manager Jari Haijanen of M-Real/Metsä-Botnia, researcher Esa Kaitila and industrial safety secretary Hannu Ulenius of the Paper Workers’ Union, occupational health and safety development manager Pauli Karjalainen of UPM, development manager Tiina-Mari Monni from the Centre for Occupational Safety, health & safety director Juha Mutru of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, industrial safety councillor Taisto Nieminen of M-Real, chief shop steward Ilkka Nokelainen from Stora Enso, managing director Peter Rehnström of the Finnish Work Environment Fund and regional director Irma Welling of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Further information:

Anneli Leppänen, Researcher, Docent, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)304 742 524

Jarmo Taipale, Chief Medical Officer, Stora Enso,                          tel. +35 20 462 4331

Juha Mutru, Health & Safety Director, Finnish Forest Industries Federation, tel. +358 (0)9 132 4457

Hannu Ulenius, Industrial Safety Secretary, Finnish Paper Workers’ Union, tel. +358 (0)9 708 9230