Total Worker Health® in Practice

Total Worker Health is defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as "policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being." Total Worker Health aims to improve the safety, health and well-being in workplaces. This photo shows a group of five OHSU employees posing for photo with Total Worker Health text on the lefthand corner

How do I bring Total Worker Health into my organization?

Adopting a Total Worker Health® (TWH) approach in your organization means a continued commitment to improving workplace safety, health, and well-being in addition to reducing chronic illnesses, workplace stress, and the burden of occupational injury.

To begin, we recommend reviewing NIOSH’s Fundamentals of Total Worker Health® Approaches: Essential Elements for Advancing Worker Safety, Health and Well-Being.  Featuring five fundamental elements of TWH, this document provides the rationale behind a TWH approach while offering first steps, practical examples, and worksheets that will guide your effort.

NIOSH identifies five elements that are crucial to bring TWH to your workplace:

  1. Demonstrate leadership commitment to safety and health at all levels within your organization.
  2. Design work that is inherently geared toward preventing occupational hazards and promoting employee well-being. 
  3. Engage workers throughout the process of identifying, designing, and implementing a program to address occupational health, safety, and well-being needs. 
  4. Maintain confidentiality of workers to ensure utmost privacy and protection against discrimination.
  5. Integrate policy, environmental, organizational, and social concerns to tackle employee safety, health, and well-being (e.g., coordinate joint meetings of safety committees, occupational health staff, human resources, and wellness committees).

Next, we recommend reviewing NIOSH's Issue Relevant to Advancing Worker Well-Being Through Total Worker Health. The list of issues relevant to Total Worker Health was published in November 2015 with input from stakeholders. This list reflects NIOSH's expanded focus for TWH recognizing new technologies, new working conditions, and new emerging forms of employment present new risks to worker safety, health and well-being. 

We offer two kinds of resources—Tools and Toolkits—Toolkits aim to address global or organization-level change whereas Tools focus more on local or team-level change. As a NIOSH Center of Excellence, the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center develops and tests interventions for Total Worker Health. Our 2011-2016 funding cycle culminated in four evidence-based toolkits, available through our new website, YourWorkpath. We have created a toolkit matrix, based on NIOSH’s List of Issues Relevant to Advancing TWH, to guide you in selecting the toolkit best suited to your needs. We have also curated resources below in our Total Worker Health Resources section.

Toolkits Tools
What makes the decision to adopt? Owners and executives Managers and supervisors, safety and wellness committees, and workers
Who needs to participate? Managers, supervisors, and workers Managers and supervisors, safety and wellness committees, and workers
Who do I need to commit? Time: sustained commitment and Cost: low cost Time: short-burst activities and Cost: most are no cost
Who is likely to benefit? Managers, supervisors, and workers Managers and supervisors, safety and wellness committees, and workers
What is the evidence? Evidence-based Recommend by experts

YourWorkpath houses and delivers our robust tools and comprehensive toolkits, to lead and help employers find a path towards a healthier and safer workplace. Visit our new website to access and download our most-free and low-cost safety, health and well-being resources at at YourWorkpath.com. Read more about YourWorkpath in our featured blogpost on Oregon and the Workplace.

YourWorkpath.com, an Oregon Health Workforce Center resource on workplace safety, health and well-being tools and toolkits

Total Worker Health resources

We provide below a list of selected resources pertinent to Total Worker Health. Some are in-house resources and recordings of our events at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences (home of OHWC) while others are highly recommended external resources from NIOSH, NIOSH TWH affiliates, and other TWH Centers of Excellence, among others.

  • OccHealthSci Resource Directory: Comprehensive free-to-public library of occupational safety, health and wellness resources that contains information on a number of relevant to various industries. With regard to Total Worker Health, we especially recommend visiting: Total Worker Health® and Wellness in the directly that outlines best practices, research, occupational health-safety organizations, and Oregon-specific information.
  • Recorded free webinars on Health, Safety and Wellness: Watch or listen to recordings of past symposia on workplace safety, health and wellness issues.
  • YourWorkpath.com: Designed for ease of access, this user-friendly website houses and delivers the institutes' and OHWC's  robust tools and comprehensive toolkits to help employers design a healthier and safer workplace. 
  • Health Impacts Safety: Guides that help teams integrate safety and wellness into their meetings
  • What's Work Got To Do With It Podcast: Shares the public health relevance of workplace safety, health and well-being that digs into some of the science behind the biological impact of our environment, how conditions like work hours, occupational stress, and workplace safety can affect our health and what we can do to promote well-being.
  • Resources from our OR-FACE program: The Oregon Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OR-FACE) program publishes a number of booklets and toolbox talk guides on a range of work safety issues.