The field of occupational safety and health (OSH) must rapidly adapt to meet the needs of the future as technology, globalisation, shifts in demographics, and other economic and political forces create new challenges, according to NIOSH researchers.
In an article published by the US CDC, Paul Schulte (Director of the NIOSH Division of Science Integration) and Sarah A. Felknor (Associate Director for Research Integration at NIOSH) describe how factors influencing worker health and well-being go beyond traditional OSH concerns.
They include changing demographic profiles (e.g., more women, immigrant, and older workers and more chronic disease and mental health conditions), varying employment arrangements, increasing work demands, increasing psychosocial hazards, and changing work environments.
To expand the focus of traditional OSH, Schulte and Felknor are encouraging OHS professionals to adopt a “more expansive, systems-thinking approach” to their work.
“The challenge now is to operationalize and use the concept of well-being and develop transdisciplinary interactions to grow the field. Embracing this paradigm requires a more expansive, systems-thinking approach to better integrate traditional OSH risk factors with personal and socioeconomic factors (horizontal expansion), and broaden the range of factors that impact health (vertical expansion) by considering changes that occur over a working life.”
The researchers say that this expansion of the existing paradigm will change how we conduct OSH research, train the future OSH workforce, and design forward-thinking policies and practices within organisations.
“Moving forward, we need a systems-based, more interprofessional approach to identify new skills that support the expanded horizontal and vertical integration. These skills would include areas such as applied economics, sociology, anthropology, human relations, political science, gerontology, informatics, education, program evaluation, business, corporate social responsibility, climate science, architecture, urban planning, and sustainability.”
While aspects of some of these disciplines already contribute to OSH, the challenge will be to grow, disseminate, and consistently operationalise the contributions.
“To address the growing changes in work, workers, and workplaces, the OSH field will need to develop a broader vision, develop and use new skill sets, and partner with other disciplines and new stakeholders. OSH must be a growing, vibrant discipline. Expanding the vision and growing the field of OSH could produce a healthier workforce and enhance the well-being of nations.”
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Organisations are constantly reminded that health and safety failure is expensive. And whilst this is certainly true, there are benefits to health and safety success that go beyond cost-avoidance. Today, successful organisations view safety as an asset, and health and safety spending as an investment.
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Your investment in myosh helps you and your team manage risk, compliance and improve workplace health and safety.
We encourage you to treat your software technology like a team member. The myosh Academy is designed to empower your team with Knowledge, Skills, Tips and FAQS, and to ensure they use their software tools productively.
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