As an OSHA-authorized safety trainer, much of my focus is on occupational safety and health and ensuring organizations understand the regulations and how to be compliant. I don’t talk much about the employee wellness side.

I recently had the opportunity to provide a guest blog Dorn Companies website about how to think about marrying your safety and health program with your wellness program; approaching it as a “total” worker health & safety program instead of a separate safety program and a separate wellness program.

What is Total Worker Health®?

According to NIOSH, “Total Worker Health is defined as policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with the promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.”

Keeping workers safe is the foundation that the approach is built upon. It just means it is a more holistic approach to your workers’ well-being. It acknowledges there are risk factors related to work that may contribute to health problems usually not considered work-related.

What is the connection between work and health?

There are many job-related factors that impact the well-being of your workers and their families such as hours of work, workload, stress levels, interactions with other workers, access to paid or unpaid leave and more.

In addition, there are also many job-related factors that can contribute to health problems such as sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, depression and obesity. A wellness program offers ways for employees to handle these health problems, but a Total Worker Health & safety program also looks at how occupational hazards may also contribute to these health problems.

NIOSH’s Total Worker Health prioritizes a “hazard-free work environment and applies a modern prevention approach – consistent with traditional occupational safety and health prevention principles – that recognizes that job-related factors can have an important impact on the well-being of workers.”

Hierarchy of Controls Applied to Total Worker Health

The TWH approach advocates the integration of occupational safety and health protection eliminating or controlling workplace hazards.

Total Worker Health Hierarchy of Controls

To apply this model:

• Eliminate workplace conditions that cause or contribute to worker illness and injury, or otherwise negatively impact well-being.

• Replace unsafe, unhealthy working conditions or practices with safer, health-enhancing policies, programs, and management practices that improve the culture of safety and health in the workplace.

• Redesign the work environment, where needed, for safety, health and well-being. Remove impediments to well-being, enhance employer-sponsored benefits, and provide flexible work schedules.

• Provide safety and health education and resources to enhance individual knowledge for all workers.

• Encourage personal change for improvements to health, safety and well-being. Assist workers with individual risks and challenges; provide support for healthier choice-making.

For example, a TWH program reducing work-related stress might consider the following:

• Implementing organizational and management policies that give workers more flexibility and control over their work and schedules, as well as opportunities to identify and eliminate root causes of stress

• Providing training for supervisors on approaches to reducing stressful working conditions

• Providing skill-building interventions for stress reduction for all workers and providing access to Employee Assistance Programs

Is it time for your organization to implement a “total” worker health & safety program?