Job Quality Indicators » Work Environment

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Dilbert and the Firefighter

Workplace health and workplace safety appear to measure different aspects of one’s job. One might characterize a ‘safe’ work environment as one that encompasses little risk of physical injury or ailment while on the job. A ‘healthy’ workplace, on the other hand, generally encompasses safety but also includes positive social relationships on the job, a work environment conducive to sound mental health, and a general sense of well-being. Keeping these distinctions in mind, what do employed Canadians say about the health and safety of their workplace?


Workplace is unhealthy

Workplace is healthy

Workplace is unsafe


Unhealthy & unsafe: 11 percent

Healthy but
unsafe: 4 percent

Workplace is safe


Unhealthy but safe: 17 percent

Healthy & safe: 
68 percent

Source: CPRN - EKOS Changing Employment Relationships Survey (2000).

As the above table illustrates, just over two thirds of Canadians say that their workplace is both ‘healthy’ and ‘safe’ (lower right cell). At the other extreme, just over one in ten employees say that their workplace is neither ‘safe,’ nor ‘healthy’ (upper left cell). The remaining two cells (lower left and upper right cells) are of particular interest. A small portion of Canadians (4 percent) characterize their workplace as ‘healthy,’ but not ‘safe’ (upper right cell). Workers in this group might include people such as firefighters. While such employees may have a great boss, get along very well with their co-workers, and have an extremely high level of trust in those they work with, there remain inherent risks in entering burning buildings.

A larger share of Canadians (17 percent) say that while their workplace is ‘safe,’ it is not necessarily ‘healthy.’ Here one might envisage a frantic, Dilbert-like office worker who is exposed to little physical danger but who faces high levels of stress, long hours of work, unrealistic bosses and so on. Such workplace stressors may be viewed as ‘unhealthy’ by employees, despite the fact that the workplace may be considered ‘safe,’ as far as exposure to immediate risk or danger is concerned.

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