In the past decade, worker well-being has been a well-defined and debated term as discussions have become more open about mental health and the importance of work-life balance. The COVID-19 pandemic served to make well-being a permanent fixture in work discussions, due to the changes it made in priorities for workers and businesses, work settings, and the way operations are carried out. The demands of maintaining worker productivity amidst ever-changing, influential factors and retaining high-quality talent have been increasingly important and difficult for businesses. As such, particular focus has been placed on creating more comprehensive health and safety programs. This article will explore the relationship between worker well-being and occupational health and safety (OHS) and why integrating the two is critical to achieving business success.
Safety and health programs help prevent accidents, injuries, illnesses, and deaths from occurring within the workplace or as a consequence of work conduct. Traditionally, these programs have a reactive component, meaning that action is only taken after a safety issue has been revealed—whether this is due to an incident occurring, a worker getting sick, an outside inspector flagging the workplace for a violation, a new safety regulation being passed, etc. However, shared experience in dealing with safety and health issues in the workplace and a compendium of research on the correlation between safety and a business’s bottom line have altered this trend. As a result, there has been a surge in both the effectiveness and popularity of proactive methodologies.
Proactive health and safety measures include steps to anticipate and mitigate hazards and risks in the workplace. Examples of such tactics would be regular safety communication, continuous employee safety training and education, and periodic safety and health inspections. Worker well-being or health promotion programs are also seen as a proactive measure of ensuring employees’ physical fitness and mental stability. Promoting a healthy lifestyle among employees will lower health risks for diseases and—consequently—the insurance premiums paid by the employer. More pervasive mental and physical well-being across an organization also leads to greater productivity, decreased absenteeism, improved talent retention, and higher employee morale.
A financial impact study from the research compendium of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that employers who introduced cross-utilization of OHS programs discovered annual administrative costs and employee healthcare savings of $8.6 million. However, it does not require intensive studies to prove that there will be a higher chance of an incident occurring, especially in a safety-critical work environment, if a worker is having trouble focusing or lacks the proper physical conditioning. Additionally, extremely stressful work environments invariably put a strain on the mental and physical health of workers. These scenarios combine to illustrate the connection between worker well-being and occupational health and safety, where one perpetually deteriorates or enables the other. As such, employers must integrate worker wellness initiatives with a robust OHS program that considers both common employee health risk factors and the hazards of the working environment.
Due to a rapidly changing work paradigm, there has been increasing focus on worker well-being and its place alongside occupational health and safety. Levels of engagement are proven to be higher (leading to an actual increase in health and wellness) in employee wellness programs that focus on addressing workplace hazards rather than initiatives that singularly target individual behavior. Integrating concepts of well-being into occupational health and safety initiatives forms a more comprehensive program. Promoting employee health while addressing workplace hazards results in cost savings for the company and better health outcomes for the employees.
The SafetyStratus Research Advisory Group (RAG) brings together thought leaders from the global environmental, health, and safety community to promote best practices and provide key insights in the profession and the industries they serve. The Research Advisory Group also advocates, where practical, the intersection of and advances with the use of technology, such as the SafetyStratus enterprise EHS software platform. Group membership consists of representatives from across varied disciplines and market sectors as well as select members of the SafetyStratus team.
The primary objectives of the SafetyStratus RAG partnership are to:
- Build a strategic partnership between EHS practitioners and the SafetyStratus team.
- Provide engaging and practical content to the global EHS community.
- Provide discipline and market feedback specific to SafetyStratus products and services.
While the objectives of the RAG are varied, the primary public-facing outcome will be available through engaging and practical content found on the SafetyStratus resource pages. Various articles, papers, and other valuable resources will be produced and shared as part of an ongoing effort to cultivate a robust community. Ultimately, the SafetyStratus RAG will expand to have a broader reach and provide opportunities for more inclusion by all interested EHS professionals a collaborative community environment.
Adams, J. M. (2019, October 10). The Value of Worker Well-Being. Public Health Reports, Vol. 134 (Issue 6), 583–586. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033354919878434
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2012, May). Research Compendium: The NIOSH Total Worker HealthTM Program: Seminal Research Papers 2012. DHHS (NIOSH) Pub. (2012-146), 1–214. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2012-146/pdfs/2012-146.pdf?id=10.26616/NIOSHPUB2012146
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs: A safe workplace is sound business. United States Department of Labor. https://www.osha.gov/safety-management
Sorensen, G., McLellan, D. L., Sabbath, E. L., Dennerlein, J. T., Nagler, E. M., Hurtado, D. A., Pronk, N. P., & Wagner, G. R. (2016). Integrating worksite health protection and health promotion: A conceptual model for intervention and research. Preventive Medicine, Vol. (91), 188–196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.08.005