Health and safety managers are tasked with looking out for the physical, mental, and emotional health of staff members at all levels of an organization.
That means more than just avoiding accidents. The most effective health and safety (H&S) plans incorporate both safety and wellness.
But what's the difference between the two?
In a nutshell: Workplace safety initiatives revolve around preventing illness and injury on the job. Everyone is required to follow the rules and non-compliance can have serious consequences.
On the other hand, workplace health and wellness initiatives are aimed at promoting healthy behaviours (including mental health and emotional well-being). These are often voluntary programs, so participation is not mandatory.
Learn which workplace health and safety initiatives fall into each category—and why a good OHS plan must include elements from both.
examples of WORKPLACE SAFETY initiatives
The goal of all workplace safety programs is to reduce the risk of job-related injury, illness, and disability. To that end, they focus on identifying and mitigating hazards in the physical environment.
Specific examples include:
☑️ Emergency evacuation plans
Every business that occupies a physical space needs to have a plan for what to do in case of fire or other emergencies. Primary and secondary evacuation routes should be mapped, marked, unobstructed, and well-lit.
Someone must also be in charge of helping any employees who need assistance and accounting for all evacuated personnel.
☑️ Fall protection
Workers can obviously get hurt falling from scaffolds or ladders. They can also trip or fall because of hazards like slippery floors, cluttered workspaces, or cords stretched across the floor.
Measures like harnesses, guardrails, hand railings, ladder straps, and safety nets can help reduce the risk of falls and keep workers safe.
Fall protection is a typical safety consideration in various work settings, including construction and manufacturing.
☑️ Machine guarding
Equipment like power saws, shears, and milling machines can cause serious injuries or even death. It's essential to have guards that put some kind of barrier between a machine's moving parts and the person operating it.
Workers must also ensure that all machines are properly locked out to keep them from accidentally starting up during repair or maintenance procedures.
These are just a few examples of workplace safety initiatives. Other examples include:
☑️ Optimizing workstations to prevent repetitive stress and other injuries
☑️ Ensuring tools and equipment are used properly
☑️ Ensuring hazardous materials are handled/disposed of correctly
☑️ Ensuring workers get sufficient breaks during shifts
☑️ Ensuring workers have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE)
☑️ Providing appropriate first aid kits and ensuring workers know how to use them
☑️ Swiftly addressing conflicts that could threaten worker safety, such as harassment and bullying
☑️ Conducting safety audits to identify and eliminate physical hazards in the workplace
examples of WORKPLACE WELLNESS initiatives
Workplace wellness initiatives focus on supporting healthy activities and behaviours among employees and other staff.
Initiatives can be aimed at encouraging people to exercise more, eat healthier, combat stress, or better balance their work and home lives.
Here are a few examples:
☑️ Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
EAPs provide employees with access to confidential counselling services. They're designed to help people work through difficulties that impact their job performance.
That could include relationship problems, substance abuse, domestic violence, bereavement, poor mental health, or other issues.
Giving workers the tools to manage the stressors in their lives is a powerful way to promote workplace health.
☑️ Fitness perks
Physical wellness has obvious benefits in the workplace.
Some companies give employees time off to exercise or offer free or subsidized gym memberships. Some even have on-site facilities that make it easy for employees to get in a quick workout (gyms, yoga rooms, walking paths, etc.)
Something as simple as providing bike parking can make a big difference.
☑️ Flexible work arrangements
Many companies offer flexible schedules to help employees balance responsibilities at work and at home.
Examples include adjusting the typical 9-to-5 work schedule or allowing employees to work remotely a few days a week.
Workplace wellness goes beyond simply protecting physical safety. It's about taking a more holistic approach to employee health.
Companies with robust wellness plans tend to be more productive, have less churn, and a more positive corporate culture.
WHY BOTH SAFETY & WELLNESS ARE KEY TO health and safety management
Workplace safety and wellness are two sides of the same coin. Both are key to ensuring that people have what they need to do their jobs safely and maintain positive results.
And they often overlap. That's especially true for jobs that require heavy physical labour.
For instance, obese people typically find it more difficult to use proper body mechanics when lifting boxes or other objects. That makes them more prone to back injuries. In that case, a wellness program that concentrates on weight management could contribute to workplace safety.
Stress and fatigue can also reduce employees' ability to concentrate and make good decisions. Lapses in attention or judgment can pose a safety risk in any workplace.
This is why smart H&S leaders incorporate all aspects of health, safety, and wellness into their workplace health and safety plan.
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