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The value of the Total Worker Health approach

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Businesses want to do the best things for their workers, but they aren’t always sure what those things are. There are a lot of studies, editorials, news reports, and personal experiences to sort through. So how do you know what really works? And how do you know that your efforts make a difference?

This guide is for employers looking for the value of investing in the integrated safety and health approach, otherwise known as Total Worker Health®. This model, from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), gives us a comprehensive framework for preventing worker injury and illness and enhancing well-being. It recognizes that safety and health issues are intertwined and that when an employer supports both health and safety, the outcome is positive for both the business and individual employees. 

Why does this matter?

To start with the bottom line, employers spend a great deal of money on injuries that affect four million workers every year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Research shows that employees experiencing underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or chronic lung conditions, among others, are more likely to be injured and take longer to recover – and that adds up.

When employers offer health care benefits to workers, they also pay for chronic health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and arthritis, which also impact business costs. In 2021, U.S. health care spending reached $4.3 trillion (Source: National Health Expenditure Data). Businesses that work to protect their employees’ health can reduce those costs.

Aside from financial considerations, there are personal impacts to workers when their health isn’t supported. More workers are reporting that their work is stressful, it doesn’t support a work-life balance, or they are unable to take regular vacation days. This reduces the company’s productivity, negatively impacts the lives of individual workers, and affects employee retention, loyalty, and engagement.

What's the benefit?

There’s a real connection between the Total Worker Health (TWH) approach and a healthier and safer workforce. First, targeting and reducing work-life stress is another way to improve retention. Since chronic stress has also been linked to several health conditions, managing that can save on health care costs, too.

Other studies show that investing in worker health can really pay off. Research about the effectiveness of TWH plans found that they improved the risk factors for injuries and chronic diseases, and often reduced overall workplace injuries.

Investments in support of worker health and well-being also resulted in a return on investment of $1.70 to $5.30 saved for every dollar invested (Source: Hudson et al. 2019).  

More importantly, healthier workers are happier. That means they will likely engage more at work and at home, participating in activities that build community and support business goals.

What can I do?

Because employees spend a third of their lives at work, businesses are uniquely positioned to make a tremendous impact. 

Many employers believe this kind of effort requires a lot of time, a lot of money, or both. The truth is you can start small, and still get positive results. 

To learn more about how to prevent injuries by promoting health, an approach known as TWH, visit saif.com/TWH.

Total Worker Health® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Participation by SAIF does not imply endorsement by HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.