Employee Health and Safety
In our last post, we showed you that employee wellness and employee safety, traditionally considered mutually exclusive, have overlapping goals. By breaking down the silos between the two functions, employers can reap the benefits in terms of lower workers’ compensation and health insurance costs, increased productivity and improved morale.
If you’re still skeptical, consider this advice from the experts at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). An ACOEM paper titled “Workplace Health Protection and Promotion: A New Pathway for A Healthier – and Safer – Workforce” lays out the case for integrating employee wellness and safety.
“The two factors, personal health and personal safety – each essential to a productive worker and to a productive workplace – are effectively combined in a symbiotic manner that increases their impact on overall health and productivity. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts,” the authors explained.
Of course, our job would not be finished if we told you where to go but not how to get there. Here are some general tips for integrating employee wellness and safety.
Tip 1. Involve employees. Invite employees to help design, plan, implement and evaluate the program. Committees are practical tools for engaging employees, but they should include representatives from all levels of the organization.
Tip 2. Involve management. Emphasize the financial impact/business case for safety and wellness programs. Collaborate with front-line management to identify potential conflicts between program activities and production goals.
Tip 3. Develop a clear plan with adequate resources. Set well-defined goals, and commit the time and money necessary to achieve them. If funding is an issue, set smaller initial goals with the intention of scaling up after you have established the programs’ value.
Tip 4. Integrate systems. Encourage communication between human resources, safety and other departments that have employee health responsibilities. Communication allows the departments to explore potential areas of collaboration.
Tip 5. Focus on organizational solutions. Explore strategies that support employees’ efforts to change their behaviors. For example, provide healthy snacks in your workplace to support your wellness program’s nutrition initiative.
Tip 6. Customize your design. Each employer has a unique workplace and workforce. Customize your programs to address the hazards specific to your organization.
Tip 7. Provide appropriate incentives. Financial incentives can improve employee participation in wellness programs. Your incentives should reward safe and healthy behaviors rather than punishing employees for becoming sick or injured.
Tip 8. Protect confidentiality. You must protect employee privacy to ensure compliance with legal requirements, such as HIPPA and the ADA. Confidentiality may also encourage employee participation. Consider using online or third-party providers to minimize the health information collected by your company.
Tip 9. Stay flexible. Your workforce will change over time. Periodically adjust your program to continue meeting your employees’ needs.
Tip 10. Evaluate your programs. Continuously evaluate your programs’ effectiveness based on the goals you established in tip 3, and share the results with employees and management. Try to evaluate using return on investment if possible. Look for reductions in sick leave use, absenteeism, employee turnover and health care claims.
For more information on integrating employee wellness and safety programs, explore these resources:
- “Integrating Risk Management and Wellness Programs”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- “How Integrating Your Wellness Program with Your Occupational Health & Safety Program Gains You Benefits”
- “Implementation of a Worksite Wellness Program Targeting Small Businesses – The Pinnacol Assurance Health Risk Management Study”
By breaking down the silos between wellness and safety, employers can reap the benefits.