NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls for Total Worker HealthHierarchy of Controls applied to NIOSH Total Worker Health

I agree with the position paper, Behaviour-Based Safety Programs, recently published by The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). An employer’s primary role in employee wellbeing is to protect employees from the workplace risk factors known to undermine wellbeing.

IUF writes:

“By focusing on the individual worker and their behaviour, significant safety and health hazards, which result in workers suffering injuries and illnesses, go unaddressed. Behavioural safety programs ignore the key roles that workplace hazards, stressful and unsafe working conditions and toxic chemicals play in injury/illness causation and the notion that employers set the conditions that workers operate in.”

IUF emphasizes risks to physical safety, but its arguments also can be applied to the workplace’s psychosocial risks:

  • excessive psychological demands
  • lack of support
  • job insecurity
  • effort/reward imbalance
  • lack of autonomy
  • organizational injustice
  • work-life conflict

The Hierarchy of Controls, cited by IUF, is a succinct framework companies can adapt for wellbeing strategies. In fact, it’s endorsed for just that purpose by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Total Worker Health initiative.

The Hierarchy of Controls doesn’t exclude behavioral programs; it puts them in context for employers seeking approaches to wellbeing that are methodical and systematic, rather than scattershot and faddish.