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Hollywood blockbusters have long held the ability to glamorize dangerous situations. Spiderman uses his webs to stop a train from falling off the tracks. Superman swoops in to carry falling buildings away from potential victims. Ethan Hunt scales buildings and drops down from astronomical heights to complete his Mission: Impossible duties.
And by the end of the movie, there’s not an OSHA violation or fine in sight.
In a realistic workplace, we know the narrative is much different. We recognize that occupational health and safety should come first. We proceed with caution to ensure the best possible outcome.
And, in doing so, EHS leaders become workplace heroes in their own right.
The term ‘occupational health’ has been tossed about for decades, but it’s still largely a mystery as to what it encompasses. Briefly, this broad term is used to describe all aspects of health in the workplace.
Health in the workplace is determined by a number of things: potential health hazards in the workplace, such as cancer-causing agents, toxic chemicals, and hearing loss, for example. Conditions that can cause musculoskeletal disorders, such as poor ergonomics, are also factored in. In addition, things like salary, sick days, maternity leave, the availability of insurance, work hours, and wellness programs can also contribute to the overall health of the employees.
Occupational health is usually used in tandem with another key element – safety. Occupational health and safety work together to create desirable workplace conditions: When safety is achieved, a high level of health in the workplace can naturally follow. The inverse of this is also true, to a point: when workers are healthy, they may be more likely to ensure high safety standards.
Improving occupational health has always been a priority for EHS leaders, but the way in which we approach the subject continues to evolve.
It’s true for any safety program that communication is one of the most effective components. But in order for it to be so, companies must ensure their messages are able to be received by the entire employee population.
It’s no longer a matter of hanging OSHA-required posters in the breakroom and hoping everyone will read them. Employers are gradually becoming less reliant on static messaging because employees only pay attention to them for so long before these messages become part of the scenery, and nothing more.
Modern communications play an increasingly important role in improving occupational health because of how easy and instant sending messages has become.
The way we connect with employees today can take many forms, from SMS text messages, emails, digital signage throughout the workplace, bulletin boards, handouts, announcements, and more.
It should be a priority for every company to recognize where they can make improvements in their safety messaging strategy to ensure its ongoing effectiveness. Ideally, companies will continue to embrace the digital age and instant communication methods that make it easy to bring occupational health to the forefront.
The benefits of focusing on occupational health are multifold for any organization. Sick days or missed days of work can be reduced. Workers can be more productive. In some cases, you might be able to reduce your health insurance costs by elevating your employees’ wellness.
But the benefits don’t stop within the company.
With a strong occupational health program, employees are more empowered to do their jobs safely, which can greatly affect their quality of life. With less illness or exposure to health hazards, they can be more involved in home life, enjoy their favorite activities, and enjoy more wealth by not sinking money into medical costs.
Happy employees are successful employees.
When employees are happy and healthy, it’s reflected in their work. Occupational health isn’t just a requirement – it’s a smart investment any company should be willing to make.
And even if you’re not facing Hollywood-style disasters in your organization, a strong occupational health and safety program can easily become the hero your workplace deserves.
For more insights on all things environmental health and safety, visit our safety blog.
Since 2009, the team at EHS Insight have been on a mission to make the world a better place. Join us by subscribing to our Blog and receive updates on what’s new in the world of EHS, our software and other related topics.
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