New Approaches To Workplace Health And Safety

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Posted by Heidi Schwartz

workplace health safetyUL, a global safety science leader, released a set of new resources, supported by its New Science research, to help companies safeguard and enhance the well-being of their employees. The changing dynamics of the workforce—an aging and less healthy population coupled with increases in the cost of medical care—pose significant challenges for businesses that require strong worker productivity to compete in a global marketplace. UL’s new “Workplace Health & Safety Journal” offers a roadmap to help make the modern workplace both healthier and safer.

The age and health of today’s workforce presents businesses with new challenges. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, one out of every three U.S. workers is now over 50. Older workers are at a greater risk of illness and injury and generally experience slower recovery times. In addition, younger workers today are less healthy on average than previous generations.

Approximately 4.1 million U.S. workers suffer a serious job-related injury or illness every year, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, placing a significant cost burden on businesses. In addition, J. Paul Leigh, professor of Health Economics at the School of Medicine and Department of Public Health Sciences with the University of California, Davis, estimated that occupational illnesses and injuries cost the American economy $250 billion each year due to medical expenses and lost productivity.

“A healthy workplace is—by definition—a safer workplace,” said Todd Hohn, UL’s global workplace health and safety director. “Traditionally, organizations viewed their health and safety functions as distinct areas of their businesses. Integrating these two functions through tools, such as health and safety management software, can provide greater transparency to effectively detect and mitigate emerging risks, and ultimately improve worker conditions.”

In addition to integrating the health and safety functions, UL also believes organizations must move from a corrective to preventive approach to achieve a safer, healthier workplace. To measure the effectiveness and return on investment of their health and safety programs, many organizations today use scorecards. However, the scorecards traditionally assess lagging indicators, such as injury rates and compensation costs, which do not reflect an organization’s current strengths or potential flaws. UL’s scorecard approach blends lagging indicators with leading indicators—such as percentage of compliant or safe conditions and percentage of employees trained—to help organizations shift to a preventative approach.

Moreover, while health and safety management systems are essential tools for organizations, UL’s New Science research has determined that building a safety culture is the most effective way for an organization to reduce injury and illness and maximize employee productivity. By using the latest in health- and safety-promoting processes and systems, organizations can gain the necessary structure, including progress benchmarks, to guide their workforces to a healthier and safer future.

“UL has found that the strongest-performing companies embed health and safety practices into their cultures,” said Bill Grana, UL senior vice president and president of UL Workplace Health & Safety. “Employees at these companies go beyond compliance to active engagement in contributing to the safety of themselves and their colleagues. They identify opportunities for enhancing safety processes.”

In addition to providing more information on innovative approaches to workplace health and safety, UL’s “Workplace Health & Safety Journal” highlights a case study on how one organization used the latest safety tools to improve its processes and establish a culture of safety.

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