Moderator: Jessica Streit, PhD, MS, CHES, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
Speaker 4: Emily McAden, MSPH, North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center, UNC - Chapel Hill
Presentation Title: Implementing a Total Worker Health® approach to improve worker safety and health during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Carolina PROSPER study
Abstract: Background and Objectives: COVID-19 disrupted small- and medium-sized businesses, many of which employ lowerwage, vulnerable workers. To rapidly respond to the crisis, an interdisciplinary team from UNC-Chapel Hill received funding to assess the feasibility of assisting small- and medium-sized businesses with their pandemic response efforts using the Total Worker Health® (TWH) approach. Carolina PROSPER integrates protection from work-related safety and health hazards with health promotion efforts to advance overall worker safety, health, and well-being. Methods: In phase 1 of this study, PROSPER surveyed businesses about their COVID-19-related occupational safety and health needs. Results informed development of PROSPER’s services. During phase 2, PROSPER selected four businesses to receive intensive, tailored TWH technical assistance including ventilation consultations, surface tests for SARS-CoV-2, on-site walkthroughs, and COVID-19 policy reviews. PROSPER tested the feasibility of this approach using employee interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Results: Fifty-three of 192 phase 1 survey respondents requested technical assistance. All received recommendations tailored to their survey results. The four businesses receiving technical assistance in phase 2 represented professional services, warehousing, and transportation industries and employed 2 to 110 employees. After assessing employee and organizational needs, leadership prioritized assistance on COVID-19 testing, disinfection protocols, and infection control protocols while employees prioritized air ventilation consultation, employee mental health resources, ergonomics resources for working from home, and COVID-19 policy reviews. PROSPER delivered resources and recommendations to each business based on their priorities. Results from follow-up interviews with business representatives will be described to understand the acceptability, practicality, innovation-values fit, and demand for the TWH approach. Conclusions: Demand exists for a TWH approach to protect and promote employee safety, health, and well-being. This approach was feasible, acceptable, and greatly appreciated by small- and medium-sized businesses. Given a persistent need for assistance by small- and medium-sized businesses, Carolina PROSPER represents one successful TWH-guided approach.