We draw artificial boundaries between our lives at home and at work, and between our waking and sleeping hours. Each person is living a whole life where all of their environments, relationships, behaviors, and physiological states interact. The body we take with us to work is the one we had with us at home, and both work and home environments (resources, physical environment, psychosocial environment, responsibilities/demands) impact our physical health.
Total Worker Health® (TWH) is an approach initiated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2003 developed to address such interactions, and to advance science and practice for protecting workers’ safety, health, and well-being. The TWH approach represents an expansion of traditional occupational safety and health research and practice, with strong safety protections for workers as its foundation. NIOSH defines TWH as “…policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being” (Tamers et al., 2019). TWH recognizes that work is a social determinant of health and therefore takes a holistic approach to worker safety, health, and well-being by acknowledging the interdependence between worker well-being and their success at work. As an extension of traditional occupational safety and controls, the TWH approach prioritizes addressing and removing occupational exposures that threaten the safety and well-being of workers, and prescribes that such hazard reduction is accompanied by efforts to improve the overall health status of workers as well.
This is a very exciting time for occupational science and practice. From a TWH perspective, the “action is in the interactions” between safety, health, and well-being. This includes interactions between work and life exposures and each person’s genes, biology, and daily behaviors. This reciprocol and interactive perspective is highly consistent with Skinnerian and other approaches to behavioral science, as well as organizational systems analysis approaches. Skinner (1957) wrote that “[People] act upon the world, and change it, and are changed in turn by the consequences of their action” (p. 1). Similarly, Bandura (1978) proposed a triadic form of reciprocal determinism, focused on interactions among a person’s environment, traits, and behaviors. At both individual and organizational levels of analysis, systems approaches (Brethower, 1982; Rummler & Brache, 2012) highlight the adaptive importance of reciprocal internal and external feedback processes, as well as sustaining and interactive relationships between each system (person, organization) and its host environment (organization, economy). With its Skinnerian and systems analysis roots, and associated historical emphasis on environmental conditions and interventions, the Organizational Behavior Management community can make great and important contributions in the TWH domain.
|Dr. Olson earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Utah State University, and advanced degrees in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (MA) and Applied Behavior Analysis (Ph.D.) at Western Michigan University. He was a member of the Psychology Department at Santa Clara University prior to joining the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at Oregon Health & Science University. His research program has focused on occupational fatality surveillance and prevention, and safety and health interventions for isolated workers in demanding occupations (e.g., commercial drivers, home care workers). He has expertise in occupational safety, intervention design, and integrating safety into employee health programs. Dr. Olson is a founding investigator and current Co-Director of the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center - one of six Centers of Excellence in Total Worker Health® funded by CDC/NIOSH). He has led two prior intervention research projects in the Center, including the COMmunity of Practice And Safety Support (COMPASS) trial with home care workers, and the current Tech4Rest study to evaluate interventions to improve sleep and reduce fatigue among truck driving teams (anti-vibration driver’s seat, therapeutic mattress, behavioral sleep intervention). In addition to his work within the Center, Dr. Olson serves as the multiple PI for Oregon’s expanded occupational health surveillance program (CDC/NIOSH), and leads an internationally recognized safety and health intervention research program with commercial drivers funded by NHLBI. Dr. Olson is a past President of the Organizational Behavior Management Network and a charter member of the Society for Occupational Health Psychology, and serves on the editorial boards for several journals in these fields.