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The Total Worker Health Approach

Posted on 24 October 2016 by CRadmin2

ship-brandIt is widely known that the West Coast states (California, Oregon and Washington) have some of the strictest rules regarding the health and safety of workers, but these states also provide an assortment of publications and tools that are useful for any business anywhere in the nation. The latest of these tools is the Safety & Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which was developed in Oregon under the Total Worker Health (TWH) initiative established by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH).

About Total Worker Health

For decades, NIOSH has been attempting to deal with the 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries that occur in the U.S. each year, costing more than $1 billion per week in workers’ compensation claims. In 2011, NIOSH launched the TWH Program in an effort to advance the health and well-being of workers in the United States, which benefits not only workers but also employers in a variety of ways, including increased productivity.

As part of the TWH Program, NIOSH established six Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health across the country. These centers, located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado and Oregon, have been conducting research and publishing new materials for employers for the past five years, and this work has culminated in the development of the Toolkit Kiosk by the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.

Benefits of SHIP

The latest addition to the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center’s Toolkit Kiosk is SHIP, and its primary goal is “to promote employee health, safety, work-life balance and team effectiveness.” When used properly, the program can reduce stress and work-life conflicts experienced by employees, improve company health and safety practices and increase job performance and team effectiveness.

Research shows that when employees have conflicts between their work and personal lives, they experience higher levels of work stress, burnout, health problems and turnover. These conflicts also decrease job satisfaction, commitment to the company and performance.

SHIP has been extensively tested in labs, workshops and the real world. The program was first validated in the construction industry, and it has been adapted to for use in several others. It made available through online manuals, printable materials and software downloads, and it was designed to implemented without external support.

Work-Life Support

SHIP tackles the problem of work-life conflicts by getting owners, managers and supervisors involved in the safety and health of employees. First, supervisors must recognize that the demands of the job can affect personal and family responsibilities, but showing genuine concern about the conflicts, being knowledgeable about TWH programs, resources and policies and sharing techniques for managing responsibilities can help to reduce the impact on the business.

In order for the program to work, supervisors must demonstrate a commitment to safety – which includes all of the following points:

  • Understand and communicate the company’s safety expectations
  • Train employees on safe practices and how to recognize risks
  • Ask for suggestions and encourage creativity in coming up with solutions
  • Ensure duties are safe and demonstrate concern for employees
  • Reinforce safety procedures and practices
  • Take action against unsafe behavior and conditions

Supervisors are helped through this process with the four components of SHIP:

  1. Supervisor computer-based training
  2. Supervisor behavior tracking
  3. Team Effectiveness Process (TEP)
  4. Regular check-ins and follow-up

For further information about SHIP and the TWH approach, check out the Safety & Health Improvement Program website, download the SHIP Start Guide or go through the SHIP Leadership Briefing Slides for Power Point.

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