Are you aware of the National Prevention Council? Its formation was part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The council is chaired by the US Surgeon General and the other members are the leaders of 17 federal departments, agencies and offices. The council’s purpose is to promote prevention and wellness. The council released its National Prevention Strategy in June 2011. According to Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, the strategy will “move us from a system of sick care to one based on wellness and prevention”. She goes on to say, “We also know that many of the strongest predictors of health and well-being fall outside of the health care setting. Our housing, transportation, education, workplaces, and environment are major elements that impact the physical and mental health of Americans. This is why the National Prevention Strategy helps us understand how to weave prevention into the fabric of our everyday lives.”
One of the priorities of the strategy is to prevent injuries. One of the recommendations is to “Promote and enhance policies and programs to increase safety and prevent injury in the workplace.” The recommendation goes on to say “Comprehensive workplace prevention programs that include management commitment, employee participation, hazard identification and remediation, worker training, and program evaluation can successfully reduce workplace injuries and illnesses. Effective prevention strategies for workplace deaths and injuries include developing and implementing engineering controls and protective technologies; comprehensive, written programs that are part of formal work site safety training initiatives; and training on work practices that promote a culture of safety within the workplace. Electronic tracking systems help identify hazards, inform prevention planning, and measure progress. In multiemployer work sites, enhanced safety communication is also critical.”
The above recommendation sounds a great deal like ergonomics. Ergonomics and human factors is used to prevent injuries. It utilizes engineering controls and protective technologies. Ergonomic programs involve training of employees and management. In addition, programs use tracking systems and continuous improvement to measure progress and make improvements.
Ergonomists whether employed in companies or consultants should take time to review the strategy and develop ways to fit into the strategy. We are put of the “prevention workforce”. Here are a few key points to remember as you review the National Prevention Strategy:
- There are many parts and pieces to the strategy. Look at all of the “partners in prevention” and see who you can team with to achieve the goals of the strategy.
- Re-read the above recommendation. Do you think it could serve as a future rule or regulation under OSHA or another governing body? If so, how can you get a jump start on this within your company? What is the benefit of doing so?
- Research the economic benefits of incorporating whole body health and wellness into your company’s ergonomic program. As ergonomists we know that the changes we employ result in increased productivity, efficiency and safety. Consider how we could take prevention to the worker his/herself? Healthy, injury and illness free employees result in increased productivity. Find out what the dollar amount associated with that.
- Consider how this fits into Total Worker Health™ by NIOSH. Total Worker Health™ is a strategy integrating occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being. How will National Prevention Strategy and Total Worker Health affect your company?
- The company is considered a “community environment”. The National Prevention Strategy is focused on having the community, in this context the company, take a larger role in improving the health of the worker. It used to be that each person was responsible for his/her own health and safety; however, the strategy is changing this to a co- or interdependent responsibility.
- Thing will continue to evolve and change over time. Continue to stay up to date on both the National Prevention Strategy and Total Worker Health™ initiatives to see how they will impact the role of ergonomics and workplaces over the coming months.
Ergonomics is about being proactive and prevention. The National Prevention Strategy fits nicely into our model. As ergonomists, we should embrace the challenge and changes the National Prevention Strategies presents to us.