Is your workers’ poor health undermining your safety program? Is chronic stress creating problems with distraction and lack of focus? Is your wellness program working together with your safety program to try to manage worker health issues? Maybe it should be!
An approach developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Total Worker Health® program is intended to help employers control costs and better manage safety and health by integrating hazard control and wellness programs.
5 Ideas to Start Addressing Total Worker Health Right Now
Integrating your environmental health and safety (EHS) program and wellness program is a process; it’s not something you’ll put in place overnight. But, NIOSH has some suggestions for things you can do today to get started on merging all of your programs aimed at protecting worker health. Here are five suggestions adapted from NIOSH:
- Ask workers for their input. Workers may know what is keeping them from creating a low-stress work/life balance, following safe work practices on the job, or maintaining optimal health. Ask them whether:
- They see connections between their safety at work and their health.
- They think there is a low-cost, feasible solution to any problems they see.
- They have privacy concerns with respect to integrating health and safety.
- Offer workers more control. Workers who have greater flexibility and control over their working conditions and schedules have lower stress levels and greater productivity. Teach workers how they can use the flexibility and control you are offering to enhance their safety, health, and well-being.
- Cross-pollinate your programs. Get your EHS and wellness staff together for lunch or planning sessions. Encourage them to share their fundamental principles with one another, set goals together, and develop programs together that benefit the goals of both departments. If you have additional personnel working on different angles of the problem—for example, a benefits coordinator or employee assistance program manager—invite them in as well.
- Use physical proximity to your advantage. Put your EHS and wellness program staff together in adjoining offices or cubicles, and encourage regular communication and collaboration between them.
- Create an environment that contributes to your cause. As the employer, you have control over some things that can contribute to and enhance efforts to improve worker health, safety, and wellness. Do your part to make sure that:
- The built environment is safe—proper lighting, building maintenance, and similar fundamental measures make everyone safer.
- Your policies are consistent with your goals. Revise any policies that could undermine worker safety and health.
- Work schedules and staffing are consistent with safety goals. Understaffing and mandatory overtime are associated with higher rates of accidents.
- Work spaces and job tasks are safe and healthy. If workers are exposed to uncontrolled hazards at work, they might not take your wellness promotion efforts seriously.
- Wellness is encouraged in the workplace. Options for doing so include providing paid time for and free on-site access to healthier food, physical activity, health screenings, stress reduction resources, and health education.