The Healthy Workplaces Project sought to identify factors that contribute to creating a healthy workplace and to disseminate information across industry sectors. The SHARP program worked with the Electrical Contractors Industry, the Millwork, Furniture and Fixtures Industry, and the Food Processing Industry from 1999 to 2003.

The overall goal of the Healthy Workplaces Project was to reduce work-related injuries within a given industry. We addressed the following hypotheses:

  • Workplaces with high financial and organization health also have a high level of employee health and safety
  • The way a workplace is organized determine whether it is financially healthy and worker healthy
  • Identifying best practices in the healthiest of workplaces and promoting them throughout the industry will improve both the safety and health of the industry and, most importantly, the safety and health of its workers
Electrical Contractors

Electrical contractors are a specialty trade within the construction industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 13,000 electricians in Washington State in 2003. SHARP held focus groups with:

  • Electrical contracting managers.
  • Apprentice and journeymen electricians.
  • Apprenticeship program trainers.

The purpose of the focus groups was to identify successful strategies to reduce or control occupational injuries and illnesses. The groups identified and prioritized their top health and safety concerns and discussed potential solutions. Many of the strategies that contractors are using to reduce injuries include education, training, and the use of personal protective equipment.
While these strategies do play a role in preventing injuries, emphasis should also be placed on identifying and eliminating hazards altogether. An Executive summary and the Electrical Contractors Focus Group Report is available.

With information collected in the focus groups and following additional worksite visits, the publication, Common Ground, was developed. Common Ground sought to promote successful safety and health strategies used by electrical contractors and emphasized hazard identification and hazard elimination. The examples given throughout the five editions of the publication were meant to raise awareness of this approach to injury prevention. Common Ground shares practical, real-world ideas that can and do work:

Millwork, Furniture and Fixtures Industry

Companies in the Millwork, Furniture and Fixtures Industry predominately take raw materials and make doors, windows, moldings, railings, plywood, cabinets, furniture, and shelves.

Millwork and furniture manufacturing are economically important to Washington State. This industry has some of the highest workers' compensation claim rates. From 1995 to 1999, there were 11,456 claims accepted by the state-managed workers' compensation system. These injuries included cuts, amputations, back injuries, eye injuries, and hearing loss.

Highlights from this industry study include:

  • Overall, organizationally healthy companies did not have lower workers' compensation rates than less organizationally healthy companies. However, among a small group of companies that SHARP visited, the organizationally healthy companies did have lower injury rates.
  • About 75% of small companies (those with ten or fewer employees) performed accident investigations, kept track of injuries, and had a dedicated safety and health budget, and almost half had a safety committee.
  • Over 90% of larger companies (11 employees or more) performed accident investigations, tracked injuries and had a safety committee, and over 75% had a dedicated health and safety budget.

Study findings can be found in the Millwork, Furniture, and Fixtures Industry Final Report.

Because musculoskeletal injuries are common in this industry, a training on how to evaluate musculoskeletal hazards was conducted at an industry conference. For more on this training aimed at managers, see the journal publication:

Curwick C, Reeb-Whitaker C, and Connon C (2003). Reaching Managers at an Industry Association Conference: Evaluation of Ergonomics Training, American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Journal. doi: 10.1177/216507990305101103.

Food Processing Industry

The Food Processing Industry is engaged in using raw agricultural products and turning them into everyday food products. Relative to other industries, food processing has a high rate of injuries and illnesses that result in workers' compensation claims.

Highlights from this industry include:

  • Companies that were organizationally healthy had lower work-related injury and illness rates.
  • Larger companies had lower injury and illness rates.
  • Organizationally healthy companies paid higher wages.
  • Among companies SHARP visited, those that had systems in place to keep workers safe and healthy also had lower injury and illness rates.

Study findings can be found in the Food Processing Industry Final Report. Prevention resources can be found in Successful Strategies in the Food Processing Industry