Over the last decade, the contribution of applied psychologists and ergonomists to occupational safety and health has become increasingly important, and, not unrelated to this, more widely acknowledged. With an acceleration in the changes which are affecting our working lives, psychological, social and organisational issues have come to front in our concern to improve occupational safety and health. This concern embraces not only the safety and health of our workers, but also the healthiness and performance of their organisations.
It is, therefore, of no surprise that in Europe and in North America, as well as elsewhere in the world, a new discipline of occupational health psychology is emerging and rapidly taking shape. Occupational health psychology is truly an "interface" discipline: it is concerned with the interface between applied psychology and occupational safety and health. Within applied psychology, it is largely the interplay of work and organisational psychology, applied social psychology and health psychology that is supporting the contribution of the discipline to occupational safety and health.
As often happens, events appear to move more quickly in the USA than in Europe. The American Psychological Association (APA) has recognised occupational health psychology as a legitimate part of applied psychology, and there is now a Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Furthermore, the APA has also been working with the US National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) to promote both undergraduate and post-doctoral training in occupational health psychology. All this is to be applauded and encouraged, but it raises serious questions about Europe's contribution.
There are a number of fundamental questions which we, as Europeans, must answer. These reflect not only on our involvement in occupational health psychology, but also on our very commitment to being "European". Is there a distinct and coherent European approach to occupational health psychology? Is this approach different from that developing in the USA? Is there a need for an European organisation to encourage, nurture and shape the development of occupational health psychology in Europe?
In 1997, a series of discussions between the WHO Centre for Organisational Health and Development, (now incorporated into the Institute of Work, Health and Organisations), University of Nottingham, UK, and the Departments of Occupational Medicine at Skive Syghus and at Herning Syghus, Denmark, culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement to establish an European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology. The vision was to establish a trans-European body to promote the development of occupational health psychology in, at least, four areas: research, education and training, practice, and policy formation.
During 1998 and 1999, the Ad Hoc Organising Group expanded through a series of meetings in Nottingham, Copenhagen and Lund, and through conference presentations. The most notable conference occasions were those at the International Committee of Occupational Health (ICOH) meeting in Copenhagen, on Psychosocial Factors in Occupational Health, and at the APA / NIOSH conference in Baltimore on Work Stress. The makings of a Danish national group have been established, the quarterly journal "Work & Stress" has been approached for its involvement, and agreement has been reached on the need for a 'founding conference': the First European Workshop on Occupational Health Psychology.
The First European Workshop on Occupational Health Psychology will be the founding conference for the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology. It is being organised locally through the Universities of Lund and Kristianstad, Sweden. A working conference is planned, and an invitation to attend is being extended to those who are or wish to be key stakeholders in the definition and development of an European occupational health psychology. The workshop will be an active experience, and is designed, in part, to shape the nature of the Academy and of its contribution to occupational health psychology. The first Management Board for the Academy will be elected at the end of the meeting.
The Workshop will be a defining moment in time and will decide the fate of Europe's contribution to this exciting and important new area of applied science, practice and policy. Perhaps the most telling question is:
"Do you want to be actively involved in shaping the future of occupational health psychology in Europe through the Academy?"
We hope that you do, and that you will join us in Lund in November 1999.
The Ad Hoc Organising Group
European Academy for Occupational Health Psychology
Workshop Organising Committee
First European Workshop on Occupational Health Psychology
© 2003 EA-OHP