Workplace fatalities have dropped dramatically since the United States passed the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. In fact, in 1970, the same year the Occupational Health and Safety Administration was established, an average of 38 people were killed daily at work. In 2020, even though the United States workforce has doubled, that number dropped to 13 worker deaths per day.

Those numbers are cause for celebration, but unfortunately, progress has plateaued for many companies, and the same methods that got us to this point are becoming less effective. As a result, organizations must shift how they view workplace safety to keep pushing injury trends downward. NIOSH’s Total Worker Health approach is an excellent example of the future of workplace safety and the ever-expanding scope of the health and safety profession.

NIOSH Total Worker Health

While most organizations focus purely on reducing work-related risk factors, it has become increasingly evident that work-related and non-work-related factors play a role in worker illness and injury rates.

Job-related factors like working hours, workload, relationships with managers and coworkers, and access to paid leave can significantly impact worker health. In fact, according to the CDC, studies are beginning to show that working conditions can contribute to many common health risks, such as obesity, sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, depression, and other health conditions.

NIOSH’s Total Worker Health (TWH) approach adds this new understanding to a more collective and holistic approach to workplace safety. TWH uses traditional occupational safety prevention principles while influencing work design to eliminate hostile conditions and improve or add positive ones. All to enhance overall employee mental health, well-being, and safety. It believes that companies can reduce injuries even further by designing healthier workplaces, improving employee training, and preventing injury and illness.

There are many benefits to employees and companies who adopt this new approach. Workers who work in environments that are safe, good for their health, and fulfilling are happier while also being more innovative and productive. This translates into a competitive advantage for companies. In addition, people want to work for a company that treats them well and are less likely to leave and more likely to recommend your organization to other well-qualified workers.

Doing more with less

While this comprehensive approach to total worker health will continue to reduce workplace accidents, safety professionals will see their scope of work increase dramatically.

This scope creep is in line with the trends seen across industries for the past several decades, where companies ask their workers to produce more with less. In addition, with inflation expected to end 2022 at 8%, some companies are tightening their belts, downsizing their companies, and asking more of their workers.

In the current environment, with regulations continuing to expand and change, Safety professionals need all the help they can get, and technology may be the answer.

“We take this new focus on wide-ranging total worker health and couple that with artificial intelligence and the ability of hardware and software to deliver true insight to use as a health and safety profession that we can easily and more consistently deliver to our management teams. Those two pieces are the future.”

– Chet Brandon, Division Director of Global HSE at Special Metals.

Unfortunately, safety has been slower to adopt technology than other business areas. For example, most sales teams have used Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for years. CRMs have become an essential tool for many organizations, allowing sales teams to streamline and simplify their process while also shining a light on new sales opportunities.

In contrast, many companies still manage something as crucial to overall business success as workplace safety and compliance with spreadsheets, file cabinets, and emails. Unfortunately, this outdated approach is ripe for critical errors that can open organizations to significant safety, health, and regulatory risks. To stay competitive in the future, these companies must adopt modern technology and shift towards a total worker health approach.

How technology can help

With the ever-expanding regulatory landscape and new areas to begin focusing your attention on, like NIOSH’s Total Worker Health, safety and health management have only gotten bigger. Thankfully, technology can help solve many of the growing pains safety professionals will likely experience.

Anvil’s digital workflow supports quality, safety, and operations in one intuitive software that helps organizations detect problems and identify their solutions faster than ever. In addition, real-time data analytics provide in-depth analysis of your operations and user-friendly mobile apps and prompt workers to become more involved in supporting safety and compliance goals.

To learn more about Anvl and how NIOSH’s Total Worker Health approach and technology will change the future of safety, check out our interview with Chet Brandon.

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