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  • ACOEM and UL Propose New Framework for Integrating and Measuring Health and Safety Programs in the Workplace

    JOEM paper includes framework for ‘Integrated Health and Safety Index,’ based on Dow Jones Sustainability Index, to determine business value of employers’ health and safety efforts

    The overall well-being of American workers could be significantly improved through adoption of a new framework for integrating health and safety strategies in the workplace — including use of a standardized index for measuring their business value — according to guidance for employers published this month by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) and UL (Underwriters Laboratories).

    In a paper published in the May 2015 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine(JOEM), leading practitioners of workplace health and safety programming propose an Integrated Health and Safety (IHS) model, featuring a new Integrated Health and Safety Index based on the methodology of the widely used Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

    The proposed Integrated Health and Safety Index would translate the impact of employer health and safety programs into business value for the investment community, measuring the effectiveness of employers’ health and safety programming using the Dow Jones’ familiar categories of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

    “While employers have been steadily expanding their efforts at creating healthier and safer workforces in recent years, what has been largely missing are strategies to integrate the work of the health and safety teams and a way to accurately assess the business impact of that work,” said Todd Hohn, CSP, Global Director of Workplace Health and Safety for Underwriters Laboratories Inc. and one of the paper’s authors. “This new guidance paper offers a pathway to both.”

    “Evidence continues to mount that the health and well being of employees is directly tied to the business value of the companies they work for,” said Ron Loeppke, MD, Past President of ACOEM and one of the paper’s authors. “A new way of evaluating and measuring health and safety will make it possible to significantly accelerate the accumulation of this important data — which in turn will increase our understanding and encourage new health and safety innovations by employers.”

    Titled “Integrating Health and Safety in the Workplace: How Closely Aligning Health and Safety Strategies Can Yield Measurable Benefits,” the paper is an outgrowth of a summit meeting hosted by UL and ACOEM in 2014 that brought together more than 30 national health and safety experts to discuss the concept of integrating health and safety programming.

    The paper makes the case that programs promoting better health in the workplace impact the safety of workers and that programs promoting greater safety in the workplace impact the health of workers. Thus they should be considered as part of a continuum and employers should integrate them strategically in order to create a true “culture of health and safety” among employees.

    Most employers, however, manage their health and safety teams separately, missing the opportunity for leveraging the impact of these programs. The paper defines components of well-integrated health and safety programs and provides employers with a five-phase, step-by-step roadmap to help them address this issue by better aligning their health and safety strategies.

    A detailed description of the proposed Integrated Health and Safety Index explains how the new index would mirror the structure of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, yielding similar values based on health and safety effectiveness.

    Categories that would be evaluated in the new index range from the general, including leadership, management and corporate social responsibility practices, to the highly specific, including disability management and health and productivity programming. The proposed index would also include metrics that assign numerical value to a wide-range of standard health and safety measures, ranging from the number of workers’ compensation claims filed annually, rates of absenteeism and rates of accidents to the number of employees enrolled in biometric screenings and the number who complete annual health-risk assessments.

    The paper concludes with eight policy recommendations intended to ensure broad adoption of Integrated Health and Safety principles and the implementation and use of the proposed Integrated Health and Safety Index by the business community.

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    Citation: Loeppke RR, Hohn T, Baase C, et al. Integrating health and safety in the workplace: how closely aligning health and safety strategies can yield measurable benefits. J Occup Environ Med. 2015;57(5):585-97.

    About UL: UL is a premier global independent safety science company that has championed progress for more than 120 years. Its nearly 11,000 professionals are guided by the UL mission to promote safe working and living environments for all people. UL uses research and standards to continually advance and meet ever-evolving safety needs. It partners with businesses, manufacturers, trade associations and international regulatory authorities to bring solutions to a more complex global supply chain. For more information about its certification, testing, inspection, advisory and education services, visit www.UL.com.

    About ACOEM: The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) represents nearly 4,500 physicians specializing in occupational and environmental medicine. Founded in 1916, ACOEM is the largest medical society in the United States dedicated to promoting the health of workers through preventive medicine, clinical care, disability management, research, and education. For more information, visit www.acoem.org.