Developing a Safety and Wellness Culture In Your Company
Safety and wellness culture is the collective attitude and approach to health and safety in a workplace. It can improve health and safety standards within your company and help your business work more efficiently, increasing productivity.
Employers have long recognized the value of programs to retain talented and experienced employees. More recently, with increased worries about heightened healthcare costs more and more employers are beginning to incorporate workplace wellness programs as a means of promoting their employees overall wellness. ¹ These programs lead to reductions in health care costs and thus health insurance premiums. According to a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs, every $1 invested in the wellness program saved $3.78 in health care costs. Healthier workers are also more productive, engaged and miss fewer days of work. ²
A Growing Focus on Wellness
The implementation of these programs enables employers to reduce the potential for accidents, improve return-to-work results and better manage overall medical costs. Some examples may include working with companies who run construction operations and encouraging them to address the importance of physical fitness standards in regards to the risk of injury associated with the job description and to consider the impact it may have on overall loss and medical costs.
Implementing a Program to Support and Engage Employees
Any process that brings all levels of the institution together to work on a common goal that everyone values will strengthen the organizational culture. Implementing safety and wellness programs requires a commitment at all levels and is not merely a collection of policies and programs.
Tools like an Accident Prevention Program (APP), Personal Protective Equipment programs (PPE), ergonomic programs and Injury and illness prevention programs, can be vital components of a safety culture and may even be necessary to ensure regulatory compliance. However, these tools alone are not enough.
To create and nurture a safety and wellness culture, the following are required:
- Commitment at all levels
- Treatment as an investment, not a cost
- Continuous efforts to improve the process
- Training and information for all
- Safety leadership and culture
- System for hazard prevention and control
- Blame-free work environment
- Celebrating successes
Health and Wellness Programs
Health and wellness programs differs slightly from safety programs and are made up of two components: helping employees identify and manage chronic health conditions by offering information to educate them, and helping employees prevent future health conditions and illness by promoting healthy behavior both at home and within the workplace. ³ When planning the workplace health program, be clear about your:
- Objectives: know what you want to see happen as a result of your efforts.
- Target audience: who is the program for and how will this initiative benefit them directly.
- Type of program or campaign: what tone will your program have? Informative? Fun? Motivational?
When implementing your program, recognize that every organization is different and therefore everyone's needs may vary too. Health and wellness programs are most effective when they are customized to the specific workforce or to the individual employer’s needs. For employees who spend long periods of time at their desks or behind the wheel, yoga and fitness initiatives, as well as ergonomic equipment, may be beneficial. If the job description is more physically challenging, you may consider implementing preventative screenings, weight loss incentives, and strength building challenges. Other common wellness programs include incentives for smoking cessation, subsidized fitness programs, health education seminars and on-site flu clinics.
Sources: 1 The Nation’s Health, http://thenationshealth.aphapublications.org/content/43/8/1.3.full. 2 Katherine Baicker, David Cutler and Zirui Song, Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings. Health Affairs, 29, no.2 (2010):304-311.(published online January 14, 2010:10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0626). http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/29/2/304.full.pdf+html. 3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/.