Defining Element 5: Integrate relevant systems to advance worker well-being

Total Worker Health emphasizes the role that organizations have in shaping worker safety and health outcomes, recognizing that a multilevel perspective that includes policy, environmental, organizational, and social concerns may be best for tackling complex challenges to worker safety, health, and well-being [Best 2011]. Additionally, coordinating efforts within an organization can help save time and money and can increase effectiveness [Sorensen et al. 2013]. Integrating data systems across programs and among vendors, for instance, can simplify monitoring and evaluation while also enabling both tracking of results and continual program improvement [NIOSH et al. 2008].

Consider ways to integrate relevant systems within your organization:
  1. Conduct an initial assessment of existing workplace policies, programs, and practices relevant to safety, health, and well-being and determine how they relate to one another.

    Note: for some larger organizations, this may seem like an overwhelming task. To assist in helping to focus this step, consider, at a minimum, these factors:

    • Human resources or personnel policies on issues such as health insurance, paid sick leave, family leave, vacation benefits, retirement, and disability.
    • Safety and health policies and procedures for identifying hazards, reporting work-related injuries and illnesses, and filing workers’ compensation claims.
  2. Identify obvious areas of overlap with existing efforts, and note opportunities for future coordination.
  3. Purposefully and regularly bring together leaders and teams with overlapping or complementary responsibilities for planning and priority setting. For example, hold joint meetings of safety committees and occupational health staff, human resources, and wellness committees.

Tip for Success

Be willing to start small and scale up. Starting with modest targets is often benefi­cial if they are recognized as first steps in a broader initiative. For example, target reduction in one indicator, such as injury rates. Implement these Elements in phases if adoption of all of them at once is not feasible. Use (and evaluate) efforts before scaling up. Be willing to abandon initial attempts that fail.

Questions to Consider Asking Yourself or Your Team
  • Do we regularly seek the input of our workers on the selection and design of our offered benefits?
  • How can we change or adjust management policies or programs to more effectively support improved safety and health?
  • How does the everyday physical work environment affect workers’ safety and health?
  • Beyond our workplace policies or programs that may be targeting safety and health, what influence do our workplace or organizational norms have on worker safety and health outcomes?
  • How do our efforts feed into the community at large? What sorts of resources outside the workplace, such as community support, would be useful in helping to reinforce and support our safety and health programs?

Understanding the connections between various systems and levels of an individual worker’s experience may be helpful in designing creative, well-rounded approaches to safety and health challenges. The Issues Relevant to Advancing Worker Well-being Through Total Worker Health® graphic offers a glimpse of the diverse issues included in NIOSH’s vision of shaping the Total Worker Health approach.