Why Wellness Matters in Workers’ Comp
Unhealthy habits like smoking, maintaining a poor diet and not exercising account for 80 percent of chronic illnesses worldwide. Unfortunately, those illnesses are affecting employees both at work and at home. Research shows an increasing link between wellness and workers’ comp costs, making employee health a growing concern for Texas businesses. There’s no doubt that healthy employees are more productive, miss fewer work days and have lower health care costs, but does employee health make your people safer? That’s the conclusion of a Duke University study that showed employees with lower BMI (Body Mass Index) scores had fewer accidents compared with employees with higher BMI scores. When accidents did happen, the workers with lower BMI scores were able to recover quicker and get back on the job sooner.
Workers’ Comp Claims In 2013, employees with high BMI scores had almost twice the number of workers’ comp claims as those with low BMI scores.
Higher BMI Groups missed more than fifteen times as many work days as those with low BMI scores.
Medical Claims Costs are six times higher for those with high BMI scores than for those with low BMI scores.
Obesity Increases the Risk of Injury
According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 30 percent of Texans are obese. In 1990, that figure was fewer than 15 percent. As the problem increases, Texas businesses find themselves facing a higher risk and with greater liability.
On the job, obesity can contribute to a number of safety hazards including:
- Improperly fitted safety equipment
- Increased susceptibility to vibration-related injuries
- Increased stress on ladder rungs, harnesses and other equipment
When injuries do occur, obesity also tends to slow the recovery process by:
- Creating complications that delay recovery times and increase costs
- Leading to comorbidity issues where obesity is treated as part of the recovery process following a workers’ comp claim
- Increasing the possibility of claims resulting from a reclassification of obesity as a workers’ comp injury
- Improved physical conditioning can result in fewer accidents, less severe injuries and improved recovery times
Our Approach to Wellness
At Texas Mutual, we’ve made wellness a priority in our company for the same reasons we recommend it for your business. It’s the reason we require a health risk assessment and biometric screening for employees on our medical plan — and it’s why 97 percent of our covered employees participate in our health/lifestyle incentive programs.
By tracking the progress of participating employees and offering incentives for positive results, we’re protecting our people and our company. Our in-house wellness initiatives include:
- Onsite fitness centers
- Subsidized/free weight-management classes
- Wellness coaching
- Mentoring and support
- Employee fitness groups
- Diabetes prevention and control program
- Employee walking program
- Free tobacco cessation program
- Wellness advocates
- Food labeling in cafe and vending machines
- Free fruit
- Wellness contests
- Incentives and cash rewards
What You Can Do
Implement an incentive-based plan that fits the needs of your company. Whether you’re looking for a specific program for a group of employees or a company-wide wellness platform, there are a variety of available tools to help make it happen.
Recommended wellness initiatives cover a wide-range of offerings, including:
- Web-based resources for healthy living
- Smoking-cessation program
- Onsite exercise facilities or gym membership
- Wellness newsletter
- Biometric screening and wellness tracking
- Lifestyle coaching/behavioral counseling
- Flu shot/vaccination drives
- Employee assistance/mentoring programs
- Team building exercises
- Nutrition/cooking classes
- Coordinated exercise/bike/walking groups
Tips for a Successful Wellness Program
Lead by example. Your employees will look to management for direction, so encourage those in supervisory positions to take part in your initiatives.
Create a culture of wellness. Make wellness part of your company lifestyle by sponsoring group activities and providing the tools that make wellness possible.
Encourage and support employees efforts. Incentivize your wellness programs, and reward employees who meet goals.
Communicate often and reinforce messaging. Make wellness updates part of your staff meetings, newsletter, internal emails and corporate communications.
Share success stories. Publicize successful results to encourage others to reach a higher level.
Recruit wellness speakers. Speakers motivate, educate and inspire, so consider bringing in experts to energize your program.
Apply fair and uniform standards. Keep your goals realistic, your incentives attainable and your requirements consistent to ensure continued interest.
- The connection between wellness and safety – 2013
- National Center for Biotechnology Information research document – 2007
- Center for Disease Control study – 2012
- New York Times article on the relationship between injury severity and wellness – 2007
- Australian study on obesity risks in the workplace – 2008
- Public Library of Science study on public sector employee obesity and injuries – 2013
- Article on oil workers prohibited from flying in helicopters to offshore rigs – 2014
- N.C. legal blog on how obesity affects workers comp – 2014
- Book excerpt — Effects of worker investments on accidents
- Book excerpt — Textbook of Occupational Medicine Practice on obesity as accident cause
- Book excerpt — Weight problems in men related to accidents at work
- Mass. legal blog citing effects of obesity on ladder falls and equipment failure
- Legal blog noting obesity classification as work-related injury
- Human resources blog detailing types of accidents caused by obesity
- Insurance blog noting obesity reclassification as a workers’ comp condition – 2014