Tuesday, June 9, 2015

From Safety 2015: A Healthier Workforce Makes for a Safer Workplace

To maximize the overall health and productivity of the workforce, companies much challenge traditional safety and health programs and ask themselves, “Could health improvements translate to safety improvements, safety improvements translate to health improvements, and the synergies gained by integrating the two create significantly healthier workplaces?”

Today, most companies’ health protection programs (safety) operate independently from their health promotion programs (health), despite sharing a common goal. In his Safety 2015 session, "A Healthier Workforce Makes for a Safer Workplace," UL's Todd Hohn, CSP, discussed this separation and recommends integrating these two functions to more effectively detect and mitigate emerging risks, and, ultimately, improve worker conditions.

According to CDC, 75% of U.S. healthcare costs are linked to chronic conditions largely caused by unhealthy behaviors. Employers can help employees and their organizations by offering resources and incentives to encourage new, healthier behaviors, Hohn says. In fact, a multi-faceted approach to workplace safety and health is proven to help lower health risks, reduce the burden of illness, improve productivity and lower total health-related costs.

Traditionally, organizations have viewed their safety and health functions as distinct areas of their businesses, Hohn explained, but together, safety and health initiatives can reduce health threats to workers both on and off the job.

While this type of integration has its challenges, several key factors have been identified to help establish an integrated safety and health program:
  • Identify ways in which process changes can save money and improve performance. 
  • Understand the role of organizational structure and contributions from top management in the creation and maintenance of a culture of health and safety.
  • Define health risks employees bring into the workplace, their effect on productivity and how they can best be addressed. 
According to Hohn, by integrating traditional occupational safety and health and safety elements with health prevention initiatives, companies can expand their impact to a wider spectrum of individual to increase their effectiveness.