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  • Writer's picturePeter Sturm

Safety at work is: Missing in Action in Sustainability

Why is Safety missing from the Sustainability discussion? A safety profession problem!

Safety professionals around the world, we have a problem. We are not entrenched and leading safety and sustainability and will be left behind!

A bit of history:

Getting to the basics of sustainability from the Bruntland report:

Sustainable development was defined in the World Commission on Environment and Development's 1987 Brundtland report ´Our Common Future` as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.

This initiative is around the “3 P’s” of people, planet and profit. We have done a great job on the planet (environment) and profit of corporations and their responsibilities to their shareholders. There is one elements that I believe is the most important, and has not received the attention it deserves, and that is “people”.

Where does work safety fit in sustainability?

It is people that will save the planet, it is people that work to achieve profit. However we have not taken care of the “engine” for sustainability success, our people.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put together a white paper in December 2016 titled, Sustainability in the Workplace. A new Approach for Advancing Worker Safety and Health.

Looking and searching, there has been limited work in this area. We identify the need for safety in sustainability, and we attach ourselves to organizations that are working through these initiatives. However there is so much to be done.

This blog will advance the world of safety and sustainability in an initiative titled: “safety+sustainability” as its tag line. It will extend to identify the value as”


Value: profit, environment, prevention of workplace injuries and losses, safer workplaces, productive workplaces, etc.

Simple put the initiative will be defined as:


The focus of work safety and people, to “meet the present occupational health and safety needs and injury prevention without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and preventing workplace losses of fatalities, injuries, ill health, disability and losses”


There is no solid or agreed upon definition of sustainability and occupational health and safety. From the OSHA white paper we will build a definition using these identified opportunities:

  • many worker issues embedded within the concept of sustainability, there is a unique opportunity to advance OSH through this framework and defining the movement.

  • OSH refers to the promotion of the safety, health, and welfare of workers.

  • utilizing sustainability framing provides a way to reimagine approaches for protecting workers and raises new issues to explore and opportunities for innovation and creating safe workplaces.

  • fully articulating and integrating OSH within sustainability efforts can help expand the thinking of those already involved in sustainability and also provide a platform for the safety profession and the community of safety and health professionals to move beyond traditional roles.

  • given the traction and the momentum of the sustainability movement, this type of engagement can be used as a transformative force to amplify the impact on the lives of workers, both inside and outside the workplace.

Adapted from the OSHA Sustainability White Paper.

Building on OSHA’s Sustainability White Paper, the focus will be:

  • create new partnerships and relationships to advance integrated OSH and sustainability activities;

  • enhance interdisciplinary training and education for workers, the OSH community, and business professionals on “safety+sustainability=value”

  • measure the impact of safety and health performance on business outcomes;

  • recognize employers that successfully integrate OSH into sustainability efforts; and

  • improving access to leading and consistent data on safety and health for sustainability reporting.

What are your thoughts and comments to move safety and sustainability to the next level? Let us know what you are doing to in safety to meet today’s needs and building for future workplaces to build on today’s safety+sustainability movement for the needs of future generations.


“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” – Our Common Future, UN Brundtland Commission (1987)


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