Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other


Total Worker Health – A Broader Perspective on Health and Safety

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Heath (NIOSH), has been promoting the concept of Total Work Health (TWH) for a while now. Despite the years of research and every growing library of tools and resources, its possible (maybe even likely) the concept is still a little fuzzy. For that reason we are dedicating this month’s Safety Leadership post to help increase awareness of the concept and advance the TWH paradigm by sharing some of the related NIOSH offerings.

First – what is it? Well in NIOSH’s own words  – A Total Worker Health approach is defined as policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness–prevention efforts to advance worker well-being. 

Another way of explaining is TWH programs looks at hazards and risks from a complete or comprehensive perspective with solutions that integrate health and safety along with the concept of worker well-being. This is quite different from traditional programs which have separated health from safety and failed to consider the impact of non-task related factors which can and do have significant impacts on a workers overall well-being.

The idea of workers going home in the same condition as when they arrived should consider all aspects of health including mental health. While TWH programs prioritize hazard free workplaces, they go beyond traditional physical hazards and consider addition factors, such as stress, directly related to work and how they can also impact worker’s personal and family lives as well. Beyond that, benefits and compensation evaluations are also considered as we all know financial insecurities and access to affordable medical care have a HUGE impact on our overall quality of life and ability to thrive.

Here is a look at the Hierarchy of Controls through a TWH lens

Worker Health

You can see how traditional practices would still fit and yet this model takes a much wider look.

Here are a few examples directly from the NIOSH page which helps to make the financial case for TWH:

  • High work stress: Research shows that high stress levels, especially when experienced for prolonged periods of time, can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Workers who report stressors like high job strain (high demands, with low levels of decision-making power) have an increased frequency of heart disease [Theorell et al. 2016]. Work-related stress can also lead to depression, which contributes to absenteeism, presenteeism (workers going to work when they are sick), disability, and unemployment, which lead to higher costs for employers [Schnall et al. 2016].
  • Paid sick leave: A NIOSH study found that workers with access to paid sick leave were 28% less likely to suffer nonfatal occupational injuries than workers without access to paid sick leave [Asfaw et al. 2012]. Another study found that providing paid sick leave could have saved employers $0.63 to $1.88 billion in reduced influenza-like illness-related absenteeism costs per year [Asfaw et al. 2017].

Use the link above to see the full list of research demonstrating the benefits to the organization.

Here are several other resources to help your organization fully assess the safety, health and well-being of your workers.

McCraren Compliance offers a full range of safety and health training and consulting services. Plus we can help you incorporate well-being into your traditional systems in order to support the Total Worker Health of your workforce.

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