Integrating Occupational Safety and Health with Workplace Wellness

A grant program is helping small- to medium-sized employers in Ohio integrate their occupational safety and health (OSH) efforts with workplace wellness programs, reports the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

At least of half of employers participating in the Workplace Wellness Grant Program (WWGP) achieved some level of integration between their OSH and workplace wellness programs within the first year, reports the study by Alysha R. Meyers, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati.

Sponsored by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, the WWGP awarded grants of up to $15,000 over four years to help small- to medium-sized companies—most under 250 employees—develop workplace wellness programs. Traditional OSH programs focus on reducing exposure to occupational hazards, while workplace wellness programs seek to help workers improve their own health and well-being. There's emerging evidence that integrating these two approaches may have synergistic effects in improving worker safety and health.

In first-year surveys, nearly 60 percent of companies considered at least two OSH-related workplace factors when designing wellness programs: most commonly employee work schedules and workplace culture. In contrast, only 15 percent targeted traditional OSH hazards—such as ergonomic, safety, or substance exposures—in their wellness programs.

About half of employers said they performed some joint monitoring of workplace safety and employee wellness at least occasionally—suggesting "some degree of integrated vision." These changes were considered "naturally occurring," since the WWGP wasn't specifically designed to increase OSH-wellness integration.

"We found some evidence of integration of OSH and workplace wellness programs, practices, and policies for most indicators in this baseline survey," Dr. Meyers and coauthors conclude. They note that future WWGP evaluations will evaluate the levels, types, and impacts of integration—including the impact on workers' compensation claims and other employee health and cost outcomes.
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About the Author
Dr. Meyers may be contacted for interviews at armeyers@cdc.gov

About ACOEM
ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
 
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.

Citations

Meyers AR, Al-Tarawneh IS, Bushnell PT, et al. Degree of integration between occupational safety and health programs and wellness programs: first-year results from an insurer-sponsored wellness grant for smaller employers. J Occup Environ Med. 2019;61(9):704-17.