We focus on Safety, but where’s the Health?

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I am very lucky to have wonderful followers of this blog who leave comments. One recent comment was so detailed and well thought through (and included its own references!) that I had to share it as a separate blog post.

Vinod Gopaldasani commented on “What’s the key to a successful occupational health program and I wanted to share his thoughts with you also. His thoughts resonated with me, and I wonder how many others feel the same way? Many people that I speak too agree that we  have gone too far down the road with Safety that “Health” doesn’t even get a mention anymore…and there’s more to health than just a pre-placement medical and a drug and alcohol test every year…but don’t get me started!

You’ve touched a very important topic here. In Australia the focus seems to be on safety so much that there is now a big divide between Occupational health and Occupational safety. To give some perspective, workcover NSW used to employ occupational physicians and nurses but now they don’t. A large proportion of workers are overweight or obese and start work dehydrated. Businesses just don’t seem to be interested in their workers’ health as long as they are meeting their legal obligations under the WHS legislation, they don’t go the extra mile to take care of their workers’ health. This has directly or indirectly resulted in more workers compensation claims and more costs for businesses. Research has shown that for every dollar spent on workers health, a return on investment of up to four dollars is seen (Henke et al. 2011 and Baicker et al 2010). Occupational health has a lot of catching up to do.


Rachel M. Henke, Ron Z. Goetzel, Janice McHugh and Fik Isaac
“Recent Experience In Health Promotion At Johnson & Johnson: Lower Health Spending, Strong Return On Investment”, Health Affairs, 30, no.3 (2011):490-499

Baicker, Katherine, David Cutler, and Zirui Song. 2010.
Workplace wellness programs can generate savings. Health
Affairs 29(2): 304-311.

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