OSHA states case for prioritizing worker health, safety in sustainability agendas

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration white paper, “Sustainability in the Workplace: A New Approach for Protecting Worker Safety and Health,” highlights the importance of human capital in the growing movement toward sustainability and corporate responsibility. Sustainability strives to balance social, environmental and economic considerations to achieve long-term success and viability, the agency notes, as responsible businesses embrace the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

While such efforts have mostly focused on environmental issues like resource usage and emissions reductions, attention is now turning to other aspects of sustainability, including occupational safety and health (OSH). “It is clear more and more businesses are building the concept of sustainability into their operations,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels upon the paper’s release. “We believe the next innovation is integrating worker safety and health into these sustainability strategies.”

The paper highlights ways in which sustainability can be leveraged to reimagine and identify innovative approaches advancing safety and health:

  • Creating new partnerships to support integrated OSH plus sustainability activities;
  • Enhancing interdisciplinary training and education for workers, the OSH community and business professionals;
  • Measuring the impact of safety and health performance on business outcomes;
  • Recognizing employers that successfully integrate OSH into sustainability efforts; and,
  • Improving access to data on safety and health for sustainability reporting.

Further engagement between OSH and sustainability communities and OSHA can help identify new pathways for promoting what the agency characterizes as “a culture of safety and achieving a workplace that is truly sustainable.” “Sustainability in the Workplace: A New Approach for Protecting Worker Safety and Health” is posted as www.osha.gov/sustainability.