On Safety

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How safe workforces relate to safe communities

August 28, 2015

What if more than just employees’ livelihood depended on a healthy workforce? What if an entire community did? Turns out, that may not be far from the truth.

A new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded that industries with workers in poor health tend to be located in U.S. counties with poor health. To be clear, this is an association – researchers are still not sure why this relationship exists and they are not inferring that employment in a particular industry sector means a particular health outcome for the surrounding community.

But if true, this could mean an employer’s responsibility for encouraging healthy living extends beyond the company door. The study authors recommended that employers partner with and expand their corporate health strategies to the surrounding communities.

Many employers already do this – they’re listed in the report. And my employer, the National Safety Council, understands the relationship between company and community. The council assists towns and universities in gaining status as a Safe Community, which prioritizes safety through partnerships with local businesses, schools and residents.

Some occupational safety and health professionals have spoken with me about the need for their profession to go out into the public more often and lend expertise to the community. One stakeholder recently suggested to me that OSHA needs to do more public outreach on the importance of safety.

What do you think? How much of an obligation do employers or safety professionals have in creating safer and healthier communities? Are they doing enough, or should they do more? Let me know in the comments below.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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