Guide to Safe & Healthy Workplaces

This toolkit is designed to provide a foundation for worksites to create a lung-friendly workplace. It includes five strategies to guide employers and worksite wellness providers to create a healthy working environment. Each section includes information about the strategy, recommended components to meet the strategy and downloadable tools to support your efforts.

Getting Started: Creating Safe & Healthy Workplaces

How can a benefit broker help?

A benefit broker could be a very important asset to the leadership team and planning phase. A benefit broker can show you how to choose the best health care plan that targets the health needs of your employees. In the particular case of asthma, having the right health care plan can allow people with asthma access to evidence-based best practices regarding asthma control and management. Moreover, the right health care plan could include an education component regarding asthma that will serve to provide more and new information to people living with asthma. A benefit package that provides comprehensive asthma-related services to your employees with asthma will help improve health and reduce the overall costs associated with the disease.

This toolkit is intended for employers, health care purchasers, and worksite wellness providers as they collaborate to design strategies to improve the lung health of employees.

Each of the core sections (Employee Healthcare, Healthy Work Environment, Asthma Education, Smoking Cessation and Health Promotion) includes links to tools and downloadable templates to help develop a comprehensive approach to creating lung-friendly workplaces. Case studies are also included in some core sections to help you with best practices already implemented in the workplace.

This toolkit is a planning tool based on real-life lung health management and treatment strategies and recommendations from governmental agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

As workplaces vary within and among regions and states, the toolkit provides approaches that can and should be customized depending on local variables, priorities, and current situations.

Learn more in-depth information about asthma in the workplace.

Below are some strategies to get started on a workplace wellness initiative that takes into consideration employees' lung health (click on the headings for more info):

Key Components to Effective Asthma Management in the Workplace
  1. Adhere to federal health and safety guidelines . The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 requires employers to provide workplaces free from recognized hazards. About half of U.S. states and territories also set their own standards under OSHA-approved state plans.
  2. Institute programs to prevent occupational asthma by reducing exposure to allergens and irritants through elimination or substitution. Personal respiratory protective equipment can reduce the occurrence of occupational asthma but not completely prevent it.
  3. Establish a surveillance program to identify affected workers early. Look for symptoms of asthma. Lung function tests (spirometry) and skin tests can help confirm the disease.
  4. Train workers on potential workplace hazards, including precautions to take and mechanisms for reporting hazards or problems.
  5. Eliminate smoking in the workplace. Offer benefits and smoking cessation programs to encourage employees to quit.

Guidance for Employers, Employees and Worksites from the National Heart, Lung, Blood, Institute's National Asthma Control Initiative

Employee Healthcare

The American Lung Association believes that people living with lung diseases such as asthma or COPD and every smoker should have easy access to healthcare services to adequately control and manage their disease and/or quit smoking. This particular section of the toolkit is designed to help employers with choosing a health care package that caters to the needs of your employees; especially the ones living with lung disease.

Inquiring about what health insurance providers offer regarding the management of asthma and COPD is a very important step to ensure access to appropriate care. Employers, health care purchasers, and worksite wellness providers could identify appropriate health benefits for employees, best practices, and success stories in other organizations will to help in the decision making process.

Below are some strategies to providing access to healthcare services (click on the headings for more info):

Healthy Work Environment

Maintaining healthy indoor air quality is an important step for all your employees, but is especially important in helping your employees with asthma control their disease. People working in a healthy environment (indoor and/or outdoor) should suffer fewer episodes of asthma and other short- and long-term health effects from environmental causes.

Below are some strategies to ensuring a healthy work environment (click on the headings for more info):

Asthma Education

Asthma is a complex disease. It is episodic meaning that it can come and go depending on exposure to physical, emotional or environmental components that cause asthma symptoms. Asthma requires daily self-management, which includes: monitoring asthma symptoms, controlling environmental exposures, and taking asthma medicines to control asthma symptoms. Good asthma management also includes appropriate care from qualified healthcare professionals. Employees and families with asthma should have access to educational opportunities to increase asthma knowledge to learn daily self-management techniques.

Below are some strategies to providing asthma education in the workplace (click on the headings for more info):

Smoking Cessation

The American Lung Association believes that every smoker should have easy access to the help they need to quit smoking. Helping smokers quit not only saves lives—it also saves everyone money. These savings come from lower health care costs, increased workplace productivity and averted premature deaths.

Studies indicate that helping smokers quit saves thousands of dollars in health care expenditures per smoker.1,2 These savings benefit the former smokers, insurance companies, employers, state budgets and taxpayers. A study released in 2010 by the American Lung Association and Penn State University shows for every dollar a state spends on smoking cessation treatments, it saves an average of $1.26. That represents a 26 percent return on investment.3

Below are some strategies to provide smoking cessation services and support in the workplace (click on the headings for more info):

  • [1] Lightwood JM & Glantz SA. Short-Term Economic and Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation—Myocardial Infarction and Stroke. Circulation. August 19, 1997, 96(4).
  • [2] Solberg LI, Maciosek MV, Edwards NM. Tobacco Cessation Screening and Brief Counseling: Technical Report Prepared for the National Commission on Prevention Priorities, 2006. July 2006, 325(7356):128.
  • [3] American Lung Association. Penn State University. Smoking Cessation: the Economic Benefits. 2010. Available at: www.lung.org/cessationbenefits.

Health Promotion

Eating healthy and being active are important components to lung health and managing chronic lung disease. Equally important to lifestyle changes is to address behavioral health needs such as anxiety, depression, and stress to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. The emphasis of a healthy work environment through the promotion of physical activity, stress reduction programs, and smoking cessation activities will help improve the quality of life for all workers especially those living with lung disease.

Below are strategies to provide activities that support a safe and healthy workplace (click on the headings for more info):

Thank you for reviewing this information. If you have questions or comments, please contact workplacewellness@lung.org.

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The American Lung Association’s Guide to Safe & Healthy Workplaces was supported by the Cooperative Agreement Number 5UE1EH000763 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.