The health, wellbeing and safety of workers is the product of a complex interplay of multiple factors. New evidence suggests that the most effective health and safety promotion programs broadly address several factors at once. To learn more about this, researchers analysed this new approach (referred to as "integrated") in both theory and practice.

Integrated approaches are defined by their broad take on workplace health and safety. Rather than narrowly focusing on one issue, they address a spectrum of factors potentially impacting upon worker health, safety or wellbeing (including mental, physical, environmental and organisational factors).

Professor Brian Oldenburg from Monash's School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine led a research project in this area.

This project unfolded in stages, and included a review of existing literature, and an analysis of six different Victorian workplaces that had previously implemented integrated safety and health promotion programs.

At the time, WorkSafe's WorkHealth program was due to end, presenting the perfect opportunity to invest in new, innovative, integrated approaches under a revitalised WorkHealth brand.

Where to now?

This project delivered a final report in 2013, followed by a Guidebook to Integrated Approaches to Worker Health, Safety and Well-Being, published in conjunction with WorkSafe.

The research concludes that integrated approaches are effective in terms of both physical and mental health outcomes, and particularly useful for reaching workers with a high risk of accident or injury with the least likelihood of engaging in health promotion.

The project's final report identifies a positive return on investment in almost all of the integrated approach case studies, and identifies key challenges with regards to staff engagement and participation, inadequate internal expertise, resource constraints, and limitations in existing evaluation tools.

In 2016, the report was updated to bring it in line with new research on the topic. These latest findings are consistent with the original review, confirming that an integrated approach to worker health, safety and wellbeing continues to be is associated with positive outcomes which go beyond improving health and safety of workers.

The update identifies particularly strong support for integrated approaches with the following aims:

  • Managing reduce and preventing musculoskeletal disorders
  • Improving mental health and reducing stress
  • Reducing medical and health costs
  • Reducing leave usage and absenteeism
  • Improving reach and participation among workers most 'at risk'.