Total Worker Health focusing on Employee Well-Being in Small Businesses

Behavioral Scientist, Thomas Cunningham of The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health spoke at the 2017 Summit on how organizations can incorporate a “Total Worker Health” approach with their objective of becoming more sustainable and “green.” This focus on sustainability has become especially relevant for organizations in recent years, but Tom says he had an interest in bringing behavioral safety principles into sustainability because “workplace safety and health often seems to exist in its own silo, yet it is clearly part of the overall effort toward improving our well-being.”

Tom’s own research been focuses on helping small businesses address the challenges they face in creating a safe and healthy workplace. His presentation surprised attendees through the lessons learned from conversations with small employers regarding the connection of business sustainability to worker well-being, and the intersecting methods of green and safe business.

"Meeting and connecting with people that are taking what they are learning and applying it in their own work” was Tom’s favorite thing about presenting at the Safety Summit. He said he “especially liked speaking with small employers who were facing so many challenges in running their operation, yet demonstrated the value of a safe and healthy workplace.”

Since the Summit, Cunningham continues to run projects that are looking at doing a better job of helping small employers with workplace health and safety as well as different vulnerable populations of workers, such as Spanish speaking and temporary workers. He is currently working on finalizing data for a project on total worker health in many different business settings, and hopes to publish this work shortly.

On October 26, 2017, Thomas spoke at the Understanding Small Enterprises (USE) Conference in Denver, Colorado. The conference focused on worker well-being and sustainable business health. Tom spoke specifically about assessing the potential for occupational safety and heath assistance among small construction firms. For more on the conference and to read more about Tom’s speech, visit

Timothy Ludwig