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Some of the largest expenses that businesses face are due to employee health and safety impacts. There is a direct correlation between on-the-job or off-the-job injury rates when it comes to the health, wellness, and lifestyles of employees. Employees who are in poor health have higher rates of injury and longer durations of recover from injury and illness.
Workers’ Compensation insurance rates, major medical premiums, and employee absenteeism are the first business yardsticks that can be measured.
WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO TO ADDRESS HEALTH AND SAFETY IMPACTS ON THE JOB
Medical privacy laws make an employer’s job very difficult when it comes to addressing all medical conditions and health concerns that impact the workplace.
One new tool, which is called “gaps to zero” is used to evaluate the safety of equipment and identify the gaps that currently impede bringing the issues down to zero. This same principle can be applied to an employer’s workforce.
Start by identifying the more obvious “gaps to zero” when it comes to employee health issues that also impact employers.
Obesity: Excess weight and weight gain, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, arthritis, and sleep apnea. In the workplace, overweight and obese employees face a 1.4 times higher risk of a back injury and are more than 1.5 times more like to suffer a musculoskeletal injury.
Diabetes: Higher risk of musculoskeletal pain and higher number of doctor visits.
Smokers: Smokers are at risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. They are also at a higher risk of musculoskeletal pain and a higher average number of visits to the doctor because of pain. Rotator cuff tears are more common among smokers, and they are 1.5 times more likely to suffer overuse injuries, such as bursitis or tendonitis, than nonsmokers.
Three simple, but important, steps that can be taken to address health and safety in the workplace.
- Provide a comprehensive major medical plan for all employee with robust wellness benefits. This gives the employee resources and incentives to take responsibility for their own health. From free flu shots to gym packages, there are many sponsored incentives employers can and should offer.
- Ensure all jobs requiring Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certifications have the proper safety training and measures in place. Beyond the mandatory training, have your workplace assessed for all job functions and safety to ensure your workplace is safe for all staff.
- For physically demanding jobs, consider retaining an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers can assess and teach employees how to improve overall workplace health in a variety of ways – whether through exercise programs, classes on proper warmup and stretching routines before work, or injury prevention programs. Athletic trainers can also help ensure that employees can perform their essential job functions in a safe manner. For prospective employees, an athletic trainer can structure human performance evaluations. These are designed to test the ability to perform essential actions that will be a part of an employee’s new job responsibilities. During an HPE, the athletic trainer will screen vital signs and guide the candidate through a validated test of essential job functions. If an employee is unable to complete the HPE, the athletic trainer will communicate with the employer and provide feedback and recommendations for any potential accommodations based on the employee’s performance.
Where have we been and where are we going in the health of employees in the workplace?
Although costs have risen for employers dealing with health and safety in the workplace, but employee injuries and illnesses have fallen significantly over the past 50 years. Since the Occupational Safety and Health Act created OSHA in 1970, injuries have fallen from a high of 11 cases per 100 fulltime workers to the new low of 2.2 cases in 2020, for the following reasons:
- Government oversight and regulations (OSHA)
- Less dangerous work conditions and increased awareness of injury risks
- Employer safety programs
Rates may be stagnated, but without employer interventions, the costs for health and safety will continue to increase for businesses.
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A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resources, payroll, health and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune 500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com