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Ask an Expert

Todd Hohn, CSP

Global Director of Workplace Health & Safety

Why is unifying health and safety management important even for organizations with effective but separately managed functions?

In essence, unhealthy workers present a safety risk within the workplace.  The resulting, unsafe working conditions contribute to worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Integrating health and safety within one program will allow organizations to improve worker behavior and impact exposures contributing to accidents, realizing cost savings and productivity improvements.

What are the most significant barriers companies tend to face in trying to unify health and safety management?

There are several obstacles. One of the biggest barriers is how health and safety are regulated: one is voluntary and the other is compliance based. There are downsides to both.  On one hand, health is more of a personal choice and in many cases, considered the employee’s private information. Therefore, there may be reluctance to participate in company programs due to possible negative or perceived repercussions.  In the case of safety, regulations exist that require workplaces to be free of recognizable hazards that could cause injury or death, thus providing organizations with more influence on prevention methods. The second barrier is complacency. The U.S. labor statistics show yearly declines in accident and injury incident rates. However, fewer injuries decrease awareness and diminish the sense of urgency that seems to be required to stimulate workplace health and safety innovation. A third barrier is that many organizations have operational “silos” and budget allocation models that result in competing priorities and lack of collaboration, making it all the more difficult to unite health and safety.

What services does UL offer to help companies unify their health and safety management to build a stronger safety culture?

Building a stronger safety culture comes down to thought leadership, advisory services and technology.  In terms of thought leadership, UL is convening experts to study different approaches to integrating health and safety and cultures of learning.  A white book will soon be published that will showcase this new way of thinking.  Advisory services are available that help organizations create the right structures and align systems and processes to drive the right outcomes.  Finally, bundling the services with technology create sustainability by allowing transparency into areas that are working (or not) so that resources can be applied quickly on those items outside the ordinary.

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