Workplace Culture

Health and Safety Go Together Like …

By Rita Pyrillis

Jul. 26, 2015

When it comes to employee health, disease management and prevention get most of the attention. But occupational safety should be an integral part of any wellness strategy, according to experts who developed guidance to help employers integrate their health and safety programs.
 
“Employers do safety in one area of their company and other health-related initiatives in another portion of the company,” said Dr. Ron Loeppke, past president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and a co-author of the guidance, which can be accessed on the college’s website. “Increasingly, there is an acknowledgment of the need to integrate the strategies of health and safety. The health of workers impacts work, and we know that work impacts the health of workers, so there needs to be a more holistic approach.”
 
In May, the college and UL — a safety certification firm based in Northbrook, Illinois — published an employer’s guide that includes a measurement tool to evaluate the effectiveness of corporate health and safety programs. The Integrated Health and Safety index examines the economic, environmental and social effect of those programs, similar to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which tracks the financial performance of green companies.
 
The index evaluates leadership, disability management, corporate social responsibility and health and productivity programs, according to the guide, which was developed by Loeppke and a number of workplace health and safety experts. Numerical values are assigned to a variety of measures including the number of workers’ compensation claims, absenteeism and accident rates to the number of participants in biometric screenings and the number who complete annual health-risk assessments.
 
“It’s about integrating and aligning, incentives and goals,” said Todd Hohn, UL’s global director of workplace health and safety. “Traditionally, employee health would report into HR and safety would report into operations. That would negatively impact their ability to work together because they are funded by different parts of the organization.”
 
The guidance recommends that health and safety leaders evaluate their current programs before developing an integrated strategy, and then create a system for collecting data and monitoring programs as the new strategy is rolled out.
Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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