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Organizations strive to integrate safety and sustainability

Organizations strive to integrate safety and sustainability

The movement for sustainability tends to focus on the environment, but there is a connection between workplace safety and sustainability, according to a recent white paper from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Various organizations are getting on board with OSHA’s efforts to integrate worker health and safety into sustainability their efforts. 

“People tend to think of sustainability and safety as two separate things,” Chicago-based Joy Inouye, research associate for the National Safety Council, said Monday in an interview with Business Insurance. “They have evolved differently, if you look at the history of worker health and safety, it really found its footing several decades ago in the 1970s ... it’s only in recent years that this broader category of sustainability has come to fruition, come into the interest of more companies across the country and the world.” 

Ensuring the safety, health and welfare of their workers is what makes employers truly sustainable, OSHA said in its white paper, released Dec. 20.

Ms. Inouye agreed, pointing to organizations and businesses that are members of the Itasca, Illinois-based Campbell Institute, an environmental, health and safety center and membership organization that is part of the National Safety Council. 

Campbell Institute members “are usually on the leading edge when it comes to almost any topic, and for them sustainability is really this broader umbrella topic that encompasses safety. You not going to have sustainable business if all your workers are injured or killed. That’s why safety is a definite part of sustainability,” Ms. Inouye said. 

Reporting and metrics, investing and shareholder engagement, business, standards and certifications, procurement, education, and research are the areas of focus for OSHA’s current sustainability efforts.

The integration of consistent and reliable metrics is a key factor in those efforts, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Other actions that can be taken to help achieve sustainability include:

• Identifying less well-developed topics to support a business case for safety and health and taking action in the areas with the most potential.

• Examining if the metrics used for reporting, procurement and investment decision-making include worker safety and health measures.

• Collaborating with diverse stakeholders to share resources and expertise.

• Creating educational opportunities that integrate worker safety and health into a broad range of academic disciplines, including cross-disciplinary training, coursework, internships, research and degree programs.

• Using social media to share compelling stories and informative sound bites. 

“Sustainability, the way I think about it is what a company is doing make sure that its operations and practices really provide positive impacts for all of its stakeholders,” said New York-based Nancy McGaw, deputy director of the business and society program of the Aspen Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan educational and policy studies organization. 

“Employees are of course an important stakeholder in companies. Their health and welfare are critical to the overall operations of the company so health and safety is very much a sustainability agenda.” she said Monday in an interview with Business Insurance



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