Building capacity in Total Worker Health® education

I’m not sure if we had any idea what we were building when we brainstormed the opportunity within our Oregon Total Worker Health® Alliance to develop curriculum addressing the Total Worker Health (“TWH”) approach. At the time it seemed like the obvious next step as two of the three Alliance partners, SAIF and our Institute/Oregon Healthy Workforce Center, were already presenting continuing education courses at conferences sponsored by our third partner, Oregon OSHA. Since then we have touched hundreds of safety, health and well-being professionals. During the pandemic we were forced to experiment with virtual learning, teaching us the advantages of both in-person and virtual learning.

We have taught courses that range from one-hour awareness, our most popular three-hour “Total Worker Health 101: The Basics” to a full-day that has been taught at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and the Oregon Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health Conference. Primary instructors continue to be Liz Hill, Total Worker Health Adviser at SAIF, and me. Our connections with the American Society of Safety Professionals and the American Industrial Hygiene Association in particular, both TWH Affiliates, has allowed us to share this content virtually and in person at chapter and national meetings, and to include non-members. Even then, we still prioritize our Oregon commitment by offering these courses at all Oregon OSHA co-sponsored conferences in place like Pendleton, Eugene, Portland and even Boise, Idaho. We have also expanded our content to delve more deeply into specific topics such as stress, fatigue, mental health and compassion fatigue. Beginning fall 2022, we will schedule an online TWH-101 class each quarter. Stay tuned for more information soon about a TWH certificate continuing education program in Region 10.

As we recognized our need to expand instructional capacity, we came up with another idea. After all, there are only two of us and we have many duties besides teaching. We piloted our first “Train-the-Trainer” course for “TWH 101: The Basics” last fall. We invited individuals who had completed “TWH 101: The Basics” and accepted our first twelve participants to attend the four two-hour weekly virtual sessions last October. We intentionally kept this class small to allow it to be interactive and give each individual an opportunity to lead a portion of the class and receive feedback. Based on our success we opened up a course this month, again inviting individuals who had previously completed the TWH 101 class. Wow! We are impressed with the experience and knowledge these twelve professionals bring to this class, joining us virtually from across the U.S., many with decades of professional experience in occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, occupational health nursing, wellness, and worker compensation (see photo above). I am certain Liz and I are learning as much as our participants.

Although we are still working out the details, we see this cadre of instructors building capacity to share TWH concepts and examples with others within their organizations, to their partners and beyond. After all, we’re all in this together. We learn from each other, evolve the practice together and work to positively move the needle to improve workplace health, safety and well-being.

Other Resources

Learn more about the Total Worker Health Alliance and its curriculum
Visit SAIF’s webpage on TWH
See TWH resources and training for OSH Professionals from CPH-NEW
Learn about the Center for Health, Work and Environment’s Certificate in TWH