The concept of Total Worker Health® (TWH) has emerged as a NIOSH-backed approach that aims to promote a hazard-free working environment for all workers. At its core, the holistic model combines protection from workplace hazards with prevention against injury and illness, all with the goal of advancing worker well-being.
Taking this on is understandably a tall task, which is where TWH’s version of the Hierarchy of Controls comes into play to provide a conceptual model for prioritizing efforts that can advance the safety, health, and well-being of every employee within an organization just like yours.
TWH’s take on the matter expands on the traditional Hierarchy of Controls used in occupational safety and health to include strategies that can advance worker well-being, with controls and strategies presented in order of expected effectiveness from top to bottom.
Here, we will take a closer look at each phase of the pyramid below and break down how it might come into play within your own efforts to promote Total Worker Health®.
Priority #1: Elimination
Eliminating or reducing any recognized hazards within the workplace is the most effective form of prevention against soreness and injury – which is why elimination serves as the foundation of the entire TWH approach. While some hazards may be impossible to eliminate entirely, most can still be managed through methods like engineering and administrative or individual interventions (in more extreme cases).
In emphasizing elimination as the primary goal above all else, it’s important to note that addressing environmental factors rather than individual ones is key. This could mean eliminating workforce equipment that forces workers into damaging or unsafe positions in order to complete a task, among other examples.
Priority #2: Substitution
Where elimination may not be a viable option, replacing any unsafe or unhealthy conditions and practices with safer and more health-enhancing practices is the next best thing. Doing so can dramatically improve the culture of safety and health within your organization.
When applying substitution, we are ultimately relying on a safer alternative to the source of the hazard. One example of this would be to use plant-based inks during printing as a substitute for more hazardous, solvent-based inks.
When considering a substitute, take a moment to compare the potential new risks of the substitute with the original risks, including how the replacement measure will integrate with other factors in the workplace. At their best, substitutes reduce the potential for harmful effects without creating any new risks.
Priority #3: Redesigning
The third-most impactful way we can promote the well-being of our workers is to redesign the working environment to improve safety and health. This might mean removing unnecessary or indirectly harmful barriers, enhancing access to employer-sponsored benefits, or providing more flexible work schedules.
Reorganizing or redesigning work processes to minimize repetitive movement and awkward postures is also a leading strategy in the fight against workplace injury.
Priority #4: Education
It’s also critical to ensure you’re providing safety and health education and resources that will enhance the individual knowledge of all team members. This might include the offering of ergonomic training and opportunities for workers to participate in the redesign of their own workstations.
Providing education on self-management strategies like preventive exercise to avoid arthritis can also help employees play an active role in combatting their own injuries.
Priority #5: Encouragement
Lastly, to promote Total Worker Health®, it’s important to encourage personal behavioral changes that can improve safety, health, and well-being on an everyday basis.
Instilling these habits within your workforce is an easily overlooked but massively impactful piece of this puzzle. In doing so, you can assist employees in assessing or overcoming their own individual risks and challenges while providing support in making overall healthier choices.
Start Fostering Total Worker Health® with Fit For Work
Safety in the workplace is an evolving necessity — and it’s now about so much more than instructional videos and first aid training. It’s about getting ahead of injuries before they happen by cultivating a proactive, results-driven safety program focused on preventing your employees from becoming patients.
Fit For Work achieves this by providing employers at thousands of locations across the country with strategic, consistent support to ensure their workers can experience a safer, happier, and more productive professional life. From onsite early intervention and ergonomics to safety compliance and employee testing, our services are designed to help safety managers and specialists prevent injuries while creating a more productive environment for their workers.
Contact us today to get started.