Total Worker Health: What you need to know

Have you heard of Total Worker Health? If you haven’t, here's an introduction.


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines Total Worker Health as:

“policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness-prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.”

“Integrate” is a key word in the definition. Total Worker Health takes a broad view of worker well-being, going beyond controlling hazards and reducing risks. It encourages a proactive approach to overall health and wellness and breaks down the traditional separation of worker safety initiatives and workplace wellness programs.

Total Worker Health means considering the whole person, including the person outside of work.

Hear how employers in the Midwest describe what the practice means for their business and their employees:

Source: Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest

Fundamentals of Total Worker Health Approaches

NIOSH recently released a workbook to get companies familiar with the concept they’ve been developing over the last 10 years.

The new workbook, titled “Fundamentals of Total Worker Health Approaches: Essential Elements for Advancing Worker Safety, Health, and Well-Being ,” offers a foundation for bringing the concept into the workplace by outlining five defining elements.

Five defining elements of Total Worker Health

  1. Demonstrate leadership commitment to worker safety and health at all levels of the organization
  2. Design work to eliminate or reduce safety and health hazards and promote worker well-being
  3. Promote and support worker engagement throughout program design and implementation
  4. Ensure confidentiality and privacy of workers
  5. Integrate relevant systems to advance worker well-being

According to NIOSH, “each of the five Defining Elements of Total Worker Health should be present in a workplace that seeks to advance worker safety, health, and well-being with a Total Worker Health approach.”

The workbook delivers self-assessment worksheets to evaluate a business’s current policies, programs or practices in each of the five areas. Then, it walks through the creation of an action plan to further integrate Total Worker Health and worker well-being into the workplace.

The new workbook provides an update to NIOSH’s original guide. The earlier publication, “Essential Elements of Effective Workplace Programs and Policies for Improving Worker Health and Wellbeing ,” offered a framework for designing, implementing and evaluating an effective workplace program that would both protect employees and promote injury prevention.

Resources to adopt a Total Worker Health approach

Two previous Simply Work Comp blog posts connect the dots between employee wellness and workplace injury prevention:

NIOSH and its six Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health offer a wealth of resources on the subject. You may also download the Fundamentals of Total Worker Health Approaches workbook .



This post was originally published on March 1, 2017, and updated on July 18, 2018.

Related posts

Stressed employee at work