NIOSH workbook to guide implementation of Total Worker Health

by Brianna Crandall — ​January 18, 2017 — The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a new workbook last month intended to help employers, workers, and professionals develop new initiatives or better align existing workplace interventions or facilities design and initiatives with the Total Worker Health (TWH) approach, the agency’s initiative that seeks to integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention.

NIOSH anticipates that the workbook will help organizations identify and address job-related factors that may contribute to health problems; identify initial steps to improve workforce safety, health, and well-being; and measure progress in TWH. The workbook describes examples of TWH approaches, and includes a self-assessment tool and resources to help organizations develop an “action plan” for TWH.

One of the resources is a new conceptual model called the “Hierarchy of Controls Applied to Total Worker Health,” which is intended as a companion to the traditional hierarchy of controls. According to NIOSH, the new model “expands the traditional hierarchy from occupational safety and health to include controls and strategies that more broadly advance worker well-being.”

The NIOSH workbook also introduces and explains the five “defining elements” of TWH:

  • Demonstrating leadership commitment to worker safety and health at all levels of an organization;
  • Designing work to eliminate or reduce safety and health hazards and promote worker well-being;
  • Promoting and supporting worker engagement throughout program design and implementation;
  • Ensuring the confidentiality and privacy of workers; and
  • Integrating relevant systems to advance worker well-being.

NIOSH plans to gather feedback from organizations, practitioners, and others who pilot the new workbook this year.

The workbook, Fundamentals of Total Worker Health Approaches: Essential Elements for Advancing Worker Safety, Health, and Well-Being, is available from the NIOSH Web site, as is more information on the Total Worker Health approach.