Integrating Health With Safety: Now Is the Time
- E. Andrew Kapp (Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Inc.) | Ahreum Amy Han (Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Inc.)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- May 2017
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 44 - 49
- 2017. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 2 in the last 30 days
- 24 since 2007
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- An integrative approach to the safety and health of a workforce is good for both employees and the bottom line.
- Current conditions such as skyrocketing healthcare costs, an aging workforce, continuing declines in the standard of health and stagnant rates of the most severe injuries underscore the importance of integrating safety and health.
- To successfully integrate health with safety, employers must overcome obstacles that keep these two functions historically separate in organizations and society.
- A recent UL Inc./ASSE study has identified eight key practices that successful companies implement to achieve integrated safety and health, and reap the rewards from doing so.
Integrated workplace health protection and promotion is defined in a 2011 article as “the strategic and systematic integration of distinct environmental, health and safety policies and programs into a continuum of activities that enhances the overall health and well-being of the workforce and prevents work-related injuries and illnesses” (Hymel, Loeppke, Baase, et al., 2011, p. 695). Since then, a body of evidence has grown that supports the underlying concept that an integrative approach to workers’ safety and health is good for employees and for an organization’s bottom line.
Cooklin, Joss, Husser, et al. (2016), found that integrated approaches demonstrate measurable improvements to individual safety, health and well-being among employees of the companies examined. In another example, a metaanalysis of 17 published studies encompassing both OSH and wellness (health promotion) across a wide range of U.S. industries, Anger, Elliot, Bodner, et al. (2015), found that all but one of the 17 intervention programs showed improved risk factors for injuries and/or chronic diseases among participating employees, with four demonstrating improvements in 10 or more health risk factors (Anger, et al., 2015).
Health risk factors are an individual’s behaviors, characteristics or exposures that increase the likelihood of developing a disease or injury. Reducing risk factors by, for example, maintaining a healthy weight, meeting guidelines for physical activity and eliminating tobacco use have all been associated with lower risk for diagnosed chronic health conditions, better functional outcomes and lower rates of preventable mortality (Pronk, 2015). In addition to potential health consequences to the individual, the prevalence of risk factors in an employee population at or above that of the U.S. population (Table 1) represents a serious risk to the employer’s productivity and profitability.
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