Advancing worker well-being in the workplace

NWCOHS collaborates with partners to develop new Total Worker Health® course

December 21, 2023

In collaboration with regional experts, the Continuing Education programs of NWCOHS introduce an innovative Total Worker Health® (TWH) course to meet the needs of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) practitioners. In an enlightening interview with Drs. Leslie Hammer and Katia Costa-Black, key collaborators of this course, we delve into the transformative potential of the TWH approach and its profound significance in shaping the future of workplace safety and well-being.

Total Worker Health: Why is it important?

Leslie Hammer, Ph.D. Professor at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and Director of the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center, states that the Total Worker Health (TWH) approach "isn't just about regular work safety; it adds a layer by considering how our jobs affect our mental well-being." Drawing from occupational health psychology, TWH aims to reduce stress and keep workers healthy, integrating traditional OSH disciplines with worker stress, safety, and health to make work safer and healthier for everyone.

Katia Costa-Black, Ph.D. Senior Manager for Education and Partnerships at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, expands on this by emphasizing the win-win nature of TWH, stating, "TWH is all about proactively tackling issues before they become big problems. It's about embracing workers' participation in better-designed workplaces, giving employees a say in how things are done." 

Interactive learning for informed decision-making

Dr. Costa-Black highlights the interactive facet of the "Total Worker Health®: Advancing Worker Well-Being in the Workplace" course, emphasizing the significance of active worker involvement in decision-making processes. The course explores the origins and defining elements of TWH, encouraging participants to contribute actively to solutions for workplace hazards. This departure from conventional safety training signifies a move towards a more inclusive and participatory model.

Transformative impact on daily work

The TWH approach brings transformative changes in field professionals' day-to-day work in three ways:

  1. It brings a broader understanding of workplace hazards, including psychosocial hazards that are not traditionally recognized, regardless of professional background. Participants will benefit whether they have an HR role or are occupational health and safety professionals.
  2. It improves communication with many stakeholders who look closely into the existing policies and practices of the organization. 
  3. It encourages looking into organizational management practices that can be optimized and improved with existing resources and looks to teams within an organization to identify what is working and what isn’t before creating a new set of rules and policies.

Takeaways for Occupational Safety and Health Professionals

Dr. Costa-Black points out that the TWH course offers palpable value for all participants because they can align our course activities with whatever mission their organization has regarding health and safety for the workers, as well as develop skills to facilitate safe committee discussions around those hazards.

As workplaces navigate the evolving terrain of occupational safety, the insights from Drs. Hammer and Costa-Black illuminate the transformative potential of the Total Worker Health approach. It marks a shift towards creating workplaces that prioritize safety and the well-being of everyone involved. By embracing TWH, we embark on a journey where workplaces become spaces that nurture and sustain the health, safety, and well-being of their most valuable assets—the workers.

Nancy Simcox, Director of the Occupational Health and Safety Continuing Education programs, says "The NWCOHS CE is thrilled to meet the needs of the practice community with this new course and certificate program.” 

The Oregon Healthy Workforce Center’s FY23 report is out!

Our readers can learn more about the Continuing Education programs collaboration with the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC) in their FY23 Annual Report! This report features the Regional Total Worker Health® Certificate Program and the course "Total Worker Health®: Advancing Well-Being in the Workplace."

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