Bigger Companies Are Keeping Workers Healthier According to Recent Total Worker Health Study

Compared to smaller and “micro” businesses, larger companies have done a better job implementing the Total Worker Health (TWH) approach to worker health and safety, reports the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Larger companies are doing a better job keeping employees safe and healthy in the workplace, suggesting that intensified efforts for intervention research need to target smaller businesses. This month, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine with the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) reported companies’ scores on an assessment of their Health Links mentoring program, aligned with the Total Worker Health (TWH) approach.

The TWH’s overall goal is to the integrate reliable occupational health and safety approaches with injury and illness prevention efforts to promote worker well-being. The assessment developed for TWH’s mentoring program allowed researchers to analyze TWH implementation at 382 companies—ranging from large companies (over 200 employees) to microbusinesses (2 to 10 employees). Out of a total possible score of 100, the average score was 63 for large companies, 47 for medium and small companies, and 33 for microbusiness.

All groups’ results indicated room for improvement, but bigger companies scored higher on the Health Links assessment in not one, but six benchmarks included in the assessment. The results indicated the need for “a more systematic and comprehensive approach to addressing health promotion and safety,” especially in smaller companies. These smaller companies proved less likely to provide their employees with organizational supports, methods for assessing employee needs and interests, and integrated health and safety strategies.

The lack of adequate health and safety measures in smaller and microbusinesses has a more disappointing reality beyond test scores: smaller businesses have higher rates of occupational fatalities, illnesses, and injuries, among other health risks. Not to mention, they often have more difficulty in maintaining morale, productivity, and retention in the workplace.

TWH implementation studies have traditionally focused on large companies despite these glaring realities within smaller companies. This recent study by the journal is one of the first to look at comprehensive policies and strategies for TWH in small and microbusinesses.

Liliana Tenney, MPH, at Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, Aurora published an article that goes into further detail about this study. You can reach Tenney for interview requests at Liliana.tenney@ucdenver.edu.

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