For thirty years, I have served as president of an environmental, health and safety organization, PTP Consulting, Inc. We have served the regulated community in varied compliance areas: General Safety in the workplace, Emergency Response, Hazardous Waste Management, Air Permitting Compliance, HAZMAT Transportation.
But one area – that I happen to be most passionate about, is rarely discussed except in the terms of doctor visits: Health, as in the H in EHS acronym. We call ourselves EHS professionals, but the request for our services has almost always focused on safety and environmental issues. What about workplace health? Are workers that healthy? Hmmm – ever heard of stress in the workplace?
American workers spend over one third of their daily lives in the workplace, five days a week. Here is the “stress snapshot” of the COVID-19 workplace: Masks on for the essential workers. Professional staff working at home in front of the computer reading emails, writing reports and participating in live teleconference meetings. Smile everyone – your boss is watching.
Pandemic or not, more people are missing time from work because of health reasons, not slips, trips and falls. Employers are kidding themselves if they claim there are no health hazards in their workforce. Assessing and maintaining a healthier workplace can lower direct costs with insurance premiums and worker’s compensation claims. It can positively impact indirect costs such as absenteeism and worker productivity.
Not only are employers falling short on assessing health issues, OSHA is not stepping up on health compliance requirements, even though the word health is part of the OSHA acronym.
In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act included this “general duty clause”:
“Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), employers that are addressing worker health, only appear to be focusing on individual improvement programs, such as weight loss, exercise and non-smoking. Employers create “perts & benefits” for individual employee success when goals are attained. The focus is on the individual, however, not on the workplace.
How can we address the broader scope of a healthful workplace? Here are some ideas!
- There is no OSHA standard for heat stress, yet exposure to extreme heat can result in occupational illnesses and injuries, and death. I wonder how many construction workers know there is an OSHA/ NIOSH App they can put on their phone for heat safety?
- Workplace violence. We have seen escalated workplace violence during COVID-19 in retail, services and customer based businesses. Are we training employees on the warning signs, and on proper first response techniques? The CDC has a wealth on information to help establish an effective program.
- Speaking of CDC – here is something interesting! The CDC recently published a video to call upon “faith leaders” to be more prevalent in our communities to promote Caring, Connection and Celebrating each other. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYNIJ6ALsoE . Maybe we are prohibited from talking religion in the workplace, but couldn’t employers promote outreach programs with employee volunteerism to help the poor, the elderly, the hurting part of our society? What a great way to build a team by serving those in need.
- Speaking of team work – how about improving communication skills? The value of conversation is overlooked. Does your workplace know the value of human interaction? Skipping the texting and talking to each other?
- The workplace needs to provide exciting benefits dedicated to the well being of their employees. Hire a chef to teach healthy cooking with whole foods. Stop offering crappy junk food snacks in vending machines and offer local farm produce instead. Bring in chair massage once in awhile! Assess ergonomics – including offices.
- It is possible to have fun at work! Invite a LAUGH Yoga class instructor- HAHA- yes! There is such a thing! We have one that works with PTP. Laughter is still the best medicine and is needed more than ever. How about hiring a comic for your next business meeting? We have them too. 😊
This is just the tip of the iceberg of ideas. SO!… sell the healthy workplace assessment idea to the employer based on cost savings. Just know this! It is simply the right thing to do.
PTP is dedicated to help inspire employers to achieve a safe, and healthful workplace.
Carol Brozosky, CHMM, CET President of PTP, Inc.