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A Unit of The Enterprise Innovation Institute
July 1, 2024

Safety and Health is Critical to Successful Economies

SHES group photo from 2024 conference
The Safety, Health, and Environmental Services Team

Understanding Your Workforce

To create a sustainable workforce, it’s important for organizations to understand and empathize with their employees’ needs and create a program that can keep them safe. Without a safety structure, workers may end up injured or sick and out of work — taking disability or collecting unemployment — which puts a strain on the employer and the economy. A healthier workforce is better for business and supports economic growth by improving a company’s performance.

Total worker health and wellness needs to be integrated at all levels of a facility, from the plant floor to the front office.

“Protecting your employees — investing in safety now — saves a lot of time and money later,” says Jenny Houlroyd, Ph.D., manager of the Occupational Health Services team with the Safety, Health, Environmental Services (SHES) group in Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “When a company prioritizes safety from the beginning, it leads to more efficient processes in the workplace as employees are properly trained and armed with the tools to reduce potential risks that lead to injuries.”

Ensuring Safe Workspaces 

SHES consultants can identify potential workplace hazards, provide guidance on how to comply with Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standards, and establish or improve safety and health programs in your company. Our safety consultants provide a free and essential service to Georgia businesses through the OSHA 21(d) Consultation Program helping to ensure that they meet or exceed the standards set by OSHA.

Terrell Colvin, a safety consultant who focuses on assisting construction partners through the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP), has worked with many companies in Region 4 on their safety management programs. Recently partnering with DPR Construction to eliminate serious hazards and enhance workplace safety and health practices. The SHES team also received an OSCAR Award from OSHA for its continued commitment to construction partnerships.

Trey Sawyers, a safety and health consultant who specializes in ergonomics, the science of designing and adapting a workspace to efficiently suit the physical and mental needs and limitations of workers, says: “Our job is to ensure that workspaces and processes are designed so that anybody can perform the work safely.”

Rachel González, another SHES team member, has led training workshops for more than 550 people across the state of Georgia on temperature extremes through a Susan Harwood Training Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Rachel’s work helps companies better understand the effects of heat and cold stress disorders in the workplace and methods for prevention.

Providing support and raising awareness for mental well-being is another area of great importance. Brandon Philpot, an industrial hygienist, is representing SHES on the Georgia Mental Health (GAMH) Alliance. The GAMH is a coalition of non-profit organizations, trade professional organizations, and federal and state government. This alliance was designed to nurture the mental health of Georgia workers and unite with organizations and agencies to prioritize mental health specifically within the construction industry.

Supporting a healthy community for those that actually build it, and removing the stigma that is associated with mental health is key to raising awareness,” says Philpot. “Our work through the alliance has already helped employers across the state create a culture that supports the mental health of workers by providing employers and the public with information, guidance, and access to training resources, and reducing and preventing exposure to mental health hazards.”

Mental health affects workers in all industries, and it is important that we protect not only the physical health of employees, but also their mental health.

Colvin is also collaborating with another industrial hygienist team member, Cara Eck, on a new Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) safety course.  JHA explores the potential consequences of completing a job or task, and how to use that information to reduce risk. This course helps participants how to first identify workplace hazards and then teaches them how to create a plan for that specific job or task using best practices. The goal is to identify hazards before they occur and ideally eliminate or reduce them to acceptable levels through these steps:

  • Step 1 – Identify the job
  • Step 2 – Describe the task steps
  • Step 3 – Identify hazard(s)
  • Step 4 – Create hazard(s) description
  • Step 5 – Implement hazard(s) control measures
  • Step 6 – JHA review process

 

The SHES team has the depth of knowledge to help companies with this in many areas including:

 

Going Above and Beyond

Successful safety and health programs are proactive and identify hazards before they cause injury or illness. Our safety experts can help evaluate your company’s current plan, or even get your program started should you not have one.

Improving safety and health programs have many components from management commitment to continuing education. Check out some of our stories and resources that recognize our safety successes, and contact us to request assistance.