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Promoting a Culture of Safety and Health

28 October, 2015 - 17:29

Employee health and safety is a must in today’s high-stress work environments. Although some may see employee health as something that shouldn’t concern HR, the increasing cost of health benefits makes it in the best interest of the company to hire and maintain healthy employees. In fact, during the recession of the late 2000s, when cutbacks were common, 50 percent of all workplaces increased or planned to increase investments in wellness and health at their organization. 1

Example of Health and Safety Policy

Cordis (A Johnson & Johnson Company) Environmental, Health, and Safety Policy

Cordis Corporation is committed to global Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) performance and leadership with respect to its associates, customers, suppliers, contractors, visitors, and communities. To fulfill this commitment, Cordis Corporation conducts its business emphasizing regulatory compliance and collaboration.

We strive for:

  • Comprehensive risk management
  • Pollution prevention
  • Healthy lifestyle culture
  • Continuous improvement and sustainability
  • Engaging partnerships
  • Possession of outstanding EHS capabilities and skill sets

We affirm that EHS is:

  • A core business value and a key indicator of organizational excellence
  • Considered in every task we perform and in every decision we make

We believe that:

  • All incidents and injuries are preventable
  • Process Excellence is the driver for continuous improvement and sustainable results in all aspects of EHS
  • Every associate is responsible and accountable for complying with all aspects of EHS, creating a safe and healthy work environment while leaving the smallest environmental footprint

A safe culture doesn’t happen by requiring training sessions every year; it occurs by creating an environment in which people can recognize hazards and have the authority and ability to fix them. Instead of safety being a management focus only, every employee should take interest by being alert to the safety issues that can exist. If an employee is unable to handle the situation on his or her own, the manager should then take suggestions from employees seriously; making the change and then communicating the change to the employee can be an important component of a safe and healthy workplace.

A culture that promotes safety is one that never puts cost or production numbers ahead of safety. You do not want to create a culture in which health and safety priorities compete with production speedup, which can lead to a dangerous situation.

Another option to ensure health and safety is to implement anemployee assistance program (EAP). This benefit is intended to help employees with personal problems that could affect their performance at work. The EAP usually includes covered counseling and referral services. This type of program can assist employees with drug or alcohol addictions, emotional issues such as depression, stress management, or other personal issues. Sometimes these programs are outsourced to organizations that can provide in-house training and referral services to employees. For example, REI (Recreation Equipment Inc.), based in Seattle, has a comprehensive EAP for its employees in both retail stores and corporate offices.

Possible techniques you can implement to have a safe and healthy work environment include the following:

  1. Know OSHA and other safety laws.
  2. Provide training to employees on OSHA and safety laws.
  3. Have a written policy for how violations will be handled.
  4. Commit the resources (time and money) necessary to ensure a healthy work environment.
  5. Involve employees in safety and health discussions, as they may have good ideas as to how the organization can improve.
  6. Make safety part of an employee’s job description; in other words, hold employees accountable for always practicing safety at work.
  7. Understand how the health (or lack of health) of your employees contributes to or takes away from the bottom line and implement policies and programs to assist in this effort.

Key Takeaways

  • Stress is a major concern for organizations, since it can decrease productivity in the workplace. There are several types of stress.
  • Eustress is a positive type of stress that can cause people to work harder toward a goal. Distress, on the other hand, is a type of negative stress.
  • Acute stress occurs in short bursts, such as when finishing a project, while chronic stress tends to persist for long periods of time.
  • Hyperstress is stress that is unrelieved for long periods of time and can often result in employee burnout. Hypostress is the lack of eustress in one’s life, which can be as damaging as other types of stress, since stress is sometimes what pushes people harder.
  • HR professionals can encourage employees to take vacation time, offer flextime, and encourage employees to take weekends off to help reduce stress.
  • Cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) affects the hands, fingers, arms, or shoulders as a result of continuous repetitive motions. Carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a type of CTD that affects the hand and wrist. People with these disorders often work in a factory or at a desk where they are doing repetitive motions constantly, such as typing or cashiering.
  • OSHA has voluntary guidelines for reducing CTD in the workplace. HR can assist by ensuring employees are provided with proper equipment and training.
  • Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or environmental illness (EI) is extreme sensitivity to chemicals found in products such as hairsprays or lotions. Some individuals are extremely sensitive to other types of chemicals, such as those used in the manufacturing of carpets.
  • MCS can be considered a disability if it limits one or more life activities. In this case, reasonable accommodations must be made, such as implementing fragrance-free zones as part of a workplace dress code.
  • OSHA has specific guidelines on how to handle chemicals, but other chemicals, such as those from secondhand smoke, are an important consideration in workplace safety. Twenty-six states, for example, have implemented no-smoking policies to help protect the health of workers.
  • Workplace violence affects 2 million Americans every year. A number of groups, such as those who deliver goods, people, or services, are at greatest risk. However, workplace violence can occur internally, which is why we must be aware of the warning signs.
  • Workplace bullying is when a person is aggressive and unreasonable in his or her behavior toward another individual. Cyberbullying is similar, except technology is used to humiliate and intimidate the employee.
  • Keeping employee information private is the job of HR and IT. In addition, some organizations may engage in web or e-mail monitoring to ensure employees are on task. Specific policies should be developed and communicated to let employees know how they may be monitored.
  • Some organizations have employee assistance programs (EAPs) that can provide assistance, counseling, and the like in case of personal problems or drug or alcohol abuse.
  • To maintain a healthful working environment, know OSHA policies and make sure people are trained on the policies. Also ensure that specific policies on all areas of health and safety are communicated and employees are trained in those areas where necessary.


  1. Visit and create your own evacuation plan using the tool on the OSHA website. (Note: web addresses sometimes change, so you may have to search further for the tool.) Bring your plan to class to share.
  2. Research examples of workplace bullying, write two paragraphs about two examples, and share your findings with the class.