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Workplace Health and Safety

Establishing Safety Principles for the Future of Worker Wellness

Photo: Courtesy of Guilherme Cunha

Workplace safety has evolved in nearly every industry over the years, with the result that today’s employees are better protected and more likely to return home safely to their families at the end of the workday. Despite these efforts, more than 2 million people die from occupational incidents or work-related diseases each year around the globe. More can be done to make even greater improvements to occupational safety and health across the board.

Two elements come into play when considering opportunities to elevate workplace safety to new heights. The first involves incorporating safety data into all corporate sustainability reporting, and the other entails conducting more occupational safety and health research to develop evidence-based practices that will prevent more injuries and illnesses.

A holistic path to sustainability

To be sustainable, an organization cannot focus solely on environmental responsibility. It must also ensure safe and healthy working conditions for its employees and contractors across the supply chain. Global initiatives that index corporate sustainability should include a standardized disclosure of occupational safety and health data to help put companies on a truly holistic path to sustainability.

Voluntary reporting lacks rigor and fails to yield the meaningful data needed to effectively evaluate corporate safety and health performance. When organizations incorporate worker safety and health as part of their sustainable business practices, companies can make comparisons to better understand where to enhance safety measures.

Similar to how environmental data is reported in sustainability efforts, a core set of safety and health metrics would help businesses measure achievements in managing human capital. New levels of collaboration and compromise are needed among sustainability reporting groups in order to significantly reduce workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.

Assessing the effectiveness of safety systems

Collecting evidence-based data through a national research agenda can help fill knowledge gaps, support interventions and develop standards of practice to advance occupational safety and health. The expansion of industry research can provide an opportunity to improve workplace safety

More research is needed to demonstrate to employers that increasing the quality of safety interventions improves company performance. Safety interventions aim to prevent injuries and illnesses while providing organizations with benefits such as greater profitability, reliability, productivity, efficiency, job satisfaction and reputation.

The research must also assess the effectiveness of safety and health management systems, which are a core responsibility of many safety professionals. A systems approach encourages better engagement between management and workers, and leads to more effective risk-based initiatives that are known to provide the best protection to workers in any industry.

Worker wellness and safety

Finally, it is important to integrate overall worker wellness with safety. Research is needed to support the inclusion of wellness as a leading safety indicator; to provide a basis for developing safety risk profiles similar to health risk assessments; and to establish the return on investment for the integration of wellness and worker safety programs.

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