Connect the Dots Between Health, Safety, and Wellbeing: Implementing the Fundamentals of a Total Worker Health Program

By Kai Virani

We’ve all heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: self-actualization, esteem, belonging, safety, and physiological. But what about the hierarchy of needs in the workplace as it relates to Total Worker Health (TWH)? With the TWH approach, there are five foundations that employers can look at when increasing the value of worker health (from the order of higher value to lower value): eliminate, substitute, redesign, educate, and encourage. Often employers implement education and encouragement– but how many of the employees see a life-changing difference? And how many employers are seeing an ROI – a true return on investment? We live in a society that values fast results which may not always be sustainable which is why FAD diets, yo-yo weight-loss, New Year’s resolutions that are forgotten within a week, and other quick solutions are prevalent. We are the most health obsessed society ever and yet our collective health is deteriorating.


Why is Total Worker Health important?

Workers spend a significant portion of their time at the workplace. A study by Andrew Naber, an industrial and organizational psychologist, revealed that the average person spends one-third of their life at work. Studies show that Americans are among the top 10 most overworked nations in the world with at least 11% of the population working over 50 hours a week. It’s no surprise that a workplace can make someone’s life better or worse in terms of happiness, mental wellbeing, health outcomes, and more which is why choosing a workplace is an important decision.

The Transformation to Total Worker Health

The TWH approach originated from the 2003 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Steps to a Healthier US Workforce Initiative. TWH builds on the traditional approach to worker safety and recognizes work as a social determinant of health. 


The goal of TWH was to create a holistic approach to improve and protect worker health, as well as create healthy work environments and ensure access to adequate healthcare. The program went above and beyond this original goal and saw numerous transformations over the years, thanks to numerous research projects, workshops, seminars, and publications meant to shed more light on how to better implement TWH approaches.


The Struggle is Real: Work-related injuries and illnesses

Employers continue to struggle with work-related injuries and illnesses. Results of an employer-related workplace injuries and illnesses report by The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported 2.6 million non-fatal work-related injuries in 2021 with respiratory diseases being the illness most common among workers. That is almost 3 out of every 100 employees!


The ongoing health issues that plague workplaces demand a fresh approach to health, safety, and wellbeing. Sustainable Health Index (SHI) works to decrease these struggles. SHI optimizes the highest value opportunities to mitigate risk, decrease the cost of caring for employees while improving the collective health of the employee population. By using the Total Worker Health framework, SHI fundamentally reimagines how these strategies are delivered by focusing on the areas of highest value: eliminate working conditions that threaten safety, health, and wellbeing, substitute health-enhancing policies, programs, and practices, and redesign the work environment for safety, health, and well-being.


Get a Free Assessment of Your Workplace

Are you ready to build the foundation of a healthy workplace and identify a direct path to savings? Sustainable Health Index helps employers unlock an integrated approach to TWH. SHI uses a validated survey tool to collect data from employees on the circumstances and conditions impacting health, safety, and wellbeing. SHI uncovers what is essential to the collective health of your people and longevity of your organizations.


Employers can get a free testing cycle with SHI to prove value upfront. After the testing cycle, SHI will present an executive summary of your organization results and recommendations for highest value opportunities, essential to collective health.


Mike Riley, CEO of Sustainable Health Index, states, “Health is a team effort. We’re in this together. Often organizations treat health, safety, and wellbeing as isolated individual issues. We help organizations recognize the complex interconnected factors and reimagine collective solutions. The data is great, but what matters is taking action; we help you do that.”


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