Intrinsic to the effectiveness of Total Worker Health® (TWH) is its adoption and adaptation by working professionals across disciplines. From universities training professionals in health and safety; to organizations like Health Links™ mentoring employers and workplace champions; to professional organizations adopting principles and marketing them to their members; the interest in TWH is growing. The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) are two professional associations working to apply TWH to their professions and see it grow. And what better place to start with the adoption of TWH than with safety and industrial hygiene professional organizations?
With help from our Center’s faculty and students, both ASSP and AIHA are building convening TWH task forces. These groups will strategize how to best deliver and communicate TWH to their members. Dr. Natalie Schwatka, an assistant professor for the TWH Program at the Colorado School of Public Health, sits on ASSP’s TWH task force. Intrinsic to her role as a professor, Natalie has a passion for education and cares about helping her professional community. In wondering how to bring those interests together, she thought, “’How can I combine them in the context of what I already do?’ When ASSP sent out the call for members, I was happy to join the task force. It came at the perfect time since our Center was expanding its work in the field as a NIOSH-funded Center of Excellence for TWH.”
In 2018-2019, ASSP’s TWH task force embarked on a journey to understand how ASSP could pursue TWH as a major topic area. The task force’s strategy included a national needs assessment of members to gauge their current knowledge of and engagement with TWH. A major finding from the survey was that members want and need resources to help apply TWH to their day-to-day work. Natalie has been a member of the organization’s tools and resources group which has begun to curate TWH resources for the safety professional. The group created a new section on the ASSP website devoted to listing existing TWH resources and tools for professionals with basic, intermediate, and advanced levels of TWH understanding. According to Natalie, “We’re trying to choose the best resources to keep on ASSP’s site, while developing tools the safety professional can use to assess their own work.” Natalie will continue to work with the ASSP TWH task force to create and curate more member resources for implementing evidence-based TWH practices.
Deborah Nelson and Penny Pietrowski are members of AIHA’s TWH task force. Deborah, a retired tenured professor in environmental science from the University of Oklahoma, graduated with her Certificate in Total Worker Health® from the Colorado School of Public Health this winter and shares a passion for integrating disciplines, a core value of TWH. Penny, who enrolled in the Certificate in Total Worker Health® program this spring, works in occupational health for the US Army in the Command Surgeon’s Office of her organization. Penny is a part of the Army’s efforts to improve the workplace safety, health and well-being of its employees, soldiers and their families. “We’re trying to tie it all together and understand how TWH principles have an impact on the worker and on soldiers,” said Penny. After hearing Dr. Schwatka speak at the annual American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo last year, Penny said she realized that “we’re all trying to do a lot of the same things and take a more holistic approach to improve employee well-being, but we’re using different language to describe our efforts. I wanted to study TWH to understand how our paths can overlap and how we can bring come together.”
AIHA’s committee is working on strengthening their relationships with the six NIOSH Centers of Excellence for TWH as a guide for their path forward. Similar to ASSP, AIHA hopes to see industrial hygienists understand the applicability of TWH and adopt its principles in their work. According to Deborah, AIHA’s TWH task force is working on collecting and tailoring existing TWH resources “so they are understandable and relevant for all industrial hygienists specifically.”
We are thrilled that both former and current students, as well as our Center faculty, are participating in these TWH task forces. We look forward to the continued collaboration with ASSP and AIHA and adoption of TWH for safety and health professionals nationwide.
Written by Laura Veith, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at the Center for Health, Work & Environment based at the Colorado School of Public Health.