We study the impact of our surroundings, both natural and built, on health.
The field of environmental and occupational health covers everything from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the injuries and mental health challenges we may face at work. We strive to improve health by promoting practices and policies that reduce harmful exposures and protect vulnerable populations. From improving worker health and safety, to promoting healthy housing, to creating new tools to monitor air and water quality, we work to make our homes, our workplaces, and our communities healthier places for all.
A graduate degree in environmental & occupational health prepares you to think critically about complex challenges and to design solutions that improve public health. When you leave one of our programs, you’ll be ready to address emerging environmental and workplace issues in a way that builds on science while prioritizing real people. Our graduates work in environmental health and safety, emergency management, environmental epidemiology, and workplace safety and health in private, nonprofit, and government organizations.
The Center for Health, Work & Environment wants to make sure small businesses are not left out of the conversation when it comes to return to work. In a recent webinar, A Safer Return for Small Employers, the Center invited John Dony, senior director of Thought Leadership from the National Safety Council (NSC), to speak to small employers specifically about returning to work after COVID-19.
NSC has over 16,000 member companies, the vast majority being small- to medium-size companies. NSC’s mission is to focus on eliminating the leading causes of preventable death so people can live their fullest lives. They focus their efforts on safety in the workplace, on the roadway, and by addressing impairment.1
As employers of all sizes prepare for the next phase of return to work, NSC developed the SAFER initiative to help inform every organization’s approach. SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns, is a framework for understanding how to safely resume traditional work operations both now and in the future for not just employees, but workers of all types.
The framework was developed by a task force – comprised of large and small Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, legal experts, public health professionals, medical professionals, and government agency representatives – that make recommendations based on best practices and proven workplace safety strategies. In May 2021, NSC updated its SAFER framework with the latest guidelines, including ventilation and filtration guidance, long-term implications of remote work and flexible schedules and vaccine policies.2
Over the last year, leaning heavily on the expertise of a diverse task force of corporate entities, non-profits, government agencies, and trade associations, NSC recognized eight prominent trends emerging from the last year that they believe will continue to inform how employers, small and large, will go from recovery to resilience. According to Dony, “COVID-19 hasn’t been the reason for these trends, it has been more of an accelerant or fuel for them.”
Of the eight trends, Dony emphasized transparency in communication for organizations and leaders as possibly the most important when returning to work. This, for many organizations, may be a radical shift from how they previously communicated with employees before March 2020. This priority ensures leaders reestablish an environment that is employee-centered and not merely on what factors leaders find important. Dony and the NSC believe this trend is imperative to reestablishing or building a thriving and productive workplace culture, especially as it pertains to worker health and safety.