Total Worker Health: What you need to know

​Employers that utilize a Total Worker Health method focus on multiple aspects of the well-being of their employees.

It’s a concept that has gained traction in recent years, with employers prioritizing a workplace free of hazards while also taking into account employees’ health, quality of life and more. These programs are shown to have several benefits , including:

  • Improved morale
  • Stronger employee productivity
  • Better safety
  • Additional sustainability practices

Looking for more on the basics of Total Worker Health? Here’s a more detailed introduction:


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

“(P)olicies, 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 individual outside of work.

Hear how employers 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 released a workbook to get employers familiar with the concept of Total Worker Health.

Developed over the past decade, the workbook, “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 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 company’s current policies, programs or practices in each of the five areas. It also walks through the creation of an action plan to further integrate Total Worker Health and worker well-being into the workplace.

Resources to adopt a Total Worker Health approach

Two related SFM blog posts connect the dots between employee wellness and workplace injury prevention:


Originally posted February 2017; videos added July 2018; updated May 2024.

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