by L. Casey Chosewood, MD, MPH, and Emily Kirby, BPH
Before the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, everyone in the North Pole is busy preparing for the big night. Elves build toys at an escalating pace to help Santa stock up for the holiday. Santa’s Workshop may be magical but, like many workplaces, safety and health hazards can still be present. Fortunately, Santa doesn’t need magic to keep his workers safe. To protect elves and promote their well-being, he uses Total Worker Health (TWH) approaches. Santa thinks carefully about how each job is designed, keeps the team at the center of all decisions, offers elfin flexibility, and shows appreciation. These are just a few strategies that keep holiday spirits bright- after all, bells on bobtails don’t just ring on their own!
A defining element of the TWH approach is to design work to eliminate or reduce safety and health hazards and promote well-being. Building toys and wrapping presents can involve vibrations from tools, repetitive motions, and awkward postures that put elves at risk for injury and illness. Santa uses the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls to design work and workstations to remove or reduce these risks to prevent workplace injuries. Mrs. Claus also provides ergonomic consultations for any elf or sugar plum maker that wants help at their workstation, and she listens to input from the sleigh-polishers and wreath-makers. Participatory approaches like this are essential when following the TWH model for safer and healthier jobs.
Attention to work schedules and adequate rest breaks is also essential when days are short and wish lists are long. Luckily, Dancer and Prancer, who lead the employee-management safety team, follow best practices for fatigue prevention and safer schedule optimization. As deadlines loom, work at the North Pole can get stressful at times. Rudolph, the resident Employee Assistance Program provider, points the way to resources to help crew managers and supervisors prevent and reduce stress that can harm the team.
Elves occasionally get injured or sick but everyone at Santa’s Workshop has quality benefits like healthcare, paid sick leave, mental health services, and considerations for retirement. When an elf is hurt, Santa ensures access to high-quality occupational health services and keeps personal medical information confidential, using privacy precautions. He never discourages reporting of hazards or injuries. Santa uses his love of lists to stay a preferred employer, examining his own long lists that are part of TWH programs, policies, and practices. His track record of retaining elves, hard-to-find flying deer, professional candy cane pullers, and the sweetest hot chocolate makers speaks for itself.
While it all seems to happen by some magical happenstance, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the entire crew at Santa’s Workshop regularly listen, plan, and work intently to improve work for everyone employed at the North Pole. Luckily for us, they come through year after year (like many of you working in critical, essential jobs). On behalf of Santa, and all of us at NIOSH, thanks for all you do to make this season bright! We wish you the warmest of holiday health and happiness now and the full year through. Here’s to a New Year full of safer, healthier work with goals of greater worker well-being at the very top of our New Year’s resolutions.
How does your workplace support workers’ safety, health, and well-being when demands are high? Tell us what TWH approaches your workplace uses to support workers when challenges arise!
L. Casey Chosewood, MD, MPH, is the director of the NIOSH Office for Total Worker Health®.
Emily Kirby, BPH, is a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH Office of Communication and Research to Practice. Posted on December 15, 2021, by L. Casey Chosewood, MD, MPH, and Emily Kirby, BPHCategories Observances, Total Worker Health