As a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is deeply invested in researching trends surrounding the well-being of workers nationwide. One of its most comprehensive efforts is the Total Worker Health® (TWH) Program, which 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.”
Such an approach goes beyond everyday safety compliance, focusing not only on the specific hazards inherent to a particular job or industry but expanding the view of worker health and well-being to include ailments such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, mental health issues, and other health conditions. Here are three big reasons why this extra effort is worth it for your business.
1. Fatigue, Stress, and Mental Health Are Real Hazards
Too often, employers consider struggles with sleep, the stress of everyday life, and/or mental health to be “personal” issues—and they either don’t want to intrude or feel it’s not worth their consideration as they are perceived as primarily occurring off the job. However, these are real hazards that have a real effect on the workplace.
Consider some of the costliest types of workplace injuries, including overexertion, roadway incidents, and slips, trips, and falls. All of the risks posed by these hazards are exacerbated by fatigue or distraction. If your employees are having trouble sleeping, are constantly distracted by a nagging pain from a preexisting health condition, or are preoccupied with stress, anxiety, or depression, the chance of an incident increases—making the hazards very real, not only to the employee but to his or her coworkers as well.
2. Addressing Total Worker Health Is Good for the Bottom Line
The cost of fatigue alone is devastating for businesses—you can check out the National Safety Council’s Fatigue Cost Calculator to see just how much it may be costing your organization. Illnesses, including those not directly caused by work, have a similarly poor impact on costs though time away from work and medical or workers’ compensation insurance claims.
But the bottom line isn’t just about costs. Healthy workers are also more productive, efficient, and likely to have a positive outlook on work and life in general. Health and safety’s positive effect on sustainability is also too often neglected; a Total Worker Health approach will boost the overall effectiveness of your workforce.
3. It Creates a Positive Cycle of Engagement
Employees notice when their employer takes a genuine interest in their well-being—and when it doesn’t. When workers feel that their company has a concern for their everyday health as well as respects their contributions on the job, it fosters engagement. Better engagement results in increased employee participation. Increased participation leads to a greater likelihood of the safe behaviors employers seek. And safe behavior leads to employees who are less likely to experience injuries and illness—who will remain healthy and, therefore, engaged.
Once this positive cycle is put into motion, the mutual benefits for employees and employers become very apparent, and consistently excellent performance is the end result.
Going Beyond Compliance—Not Forgetting It
By paying proper attention to Total Worker Health, safety professionals will not fall into the old trap of “missing the forest for the trees” while addressing the well-being of their workforce; however, they should be vigilant that they don’t begin missing the trees for the forest, either! Going beyond compliance means consistently fulfilling your everyday obligations as well, from auditing to recordkeeping to training—and the right health and safety solutions can help you take your efforts to the next level.