OSHA Looks to Link Worker Health, Safety to Sustainability

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a new white paper entitled “Sustainability in the Workplace: A New Approach for Protecting Worker Safety and Health.”

The paper highlights the importance of including worker safety and health in the growing movement toward sustainability and corporate responsibility.

Sustainability Push

Sustainability strives to balance social, environmental, and economic considerations to achieve long term success and viability, OSHA explained, noting that responsible firms currently embrace the bottom line of people, planet, and profit to achieve sustainability goals.

While these efforts have mostly focused on environmental issues, such as resource usage and emissions reductions, attention is now turning to other aspects of sustainability, including occupational safety and health (OSH).

“It is clear that more and more businesses are building the concept of sustainability into their operations,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor. “We believe the next innovation is integrating worker safety and health into these sustainability strategies.”

Innovative Approaches

The paper highlights ways in which sustainability can be leveraged to reimagine and identify innovative approaches for advancing safety and health. These methods include:

·         Creating new partnerships to support integrated OSH and sustainability activities;

·         Enhancing interdisciplinary training and education for workers, the OSH community, and business professionals;

·         Measuring the impact of safety and health performance on business outcomes;

·         Recognizing employers that successfully integrate OSH into sustainability efforts; and

·         Improving access to data on safety and health for sustainability reporting.

These are only a small fraction of the opportunities that exist, according to the agency, which adds that further engagement between OSHA, the OSH community, and the sustainability community should help to identify new pathways for promoting a culture of safety and achieving a sustainable workplace.

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