Initiating a Wellness Culture Starts at the Top
Creating a wellness culture in the workplace not only helps employees improve their health and productivity, but also benefits employers by reducing healthcare costs and creating a more committed work force.
Employers are finding the benefits of offering wellness classes during the workday more than offset the cost of funding these programs. This is especially true when you consider medical spending for obese employees is 42 percent higher than that for normal-weight employees. Studies estimate obesity costs a 100-employee company at least $28,000 per year.
Senior-level buy-in is a necessary first step toward instilling a wellness culture in an organization. It is also helpful to identify employees who can set a positive example and champion the effort by leading activities such as lunchtime walks or yoga classes.
Here are a few suggestions for initiating a wellness shift in your organization:
- Reward employees who get health screenings on their own time, or better yet, enlist a vendor to offer the service on-site.
- Bring in local experts to present lunch-and-learn talks on topics such as weight control, diabetes or starting an exercise program.
- Provide resources to help employees recognize and deal with common health challenges, such as high blood pressure, tobacco behaviors and nutrition.
- Create activities in which your work force can participate, such as weight-loss programs and walking/running groups.
Many companies with formal healthy lifestyle programs encourage participation with financial incentives that often generate greater motivation than attaining better health alone. Strategies include tying healthcare premium contribution levels to participation in the healthy lifestyle programs, with additional incentives tied to the attainment of specific goals.
For more information on workplace wellness programs, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.
Free OSHA Tools Explain Respirator Use and Procedures
Employers have access to free resources from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that explain the proper use of respirators and procedures to follow to assure respirators are protecting workers from airborne hazards.
One of the tools is a 33-minute video that can be useful for teaching proper respirator use and discusses employers’ responsibilities under OSHA’s respiratory protection standard. The video is available at http://www.dol.gov/dol/media/webcast/20110112-respirators/.
The video explains the major components of a respiratory protection program, including fit testing, medical evaluations, training and maintenance. It also discusses the difference between respirators and surgical masks and describes the common respiratory hazards found in healthcare settings.
Some toxic substances, such as formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde, are common in laboratories as preservatives for tissue samples. These substances can cause eye and nasal irritation, headaches, asthma, and other symptoms. Formaldehyde also is a carcinogen, with links to nasal and lung cancer, along with possible links to brain cancer and leukemia.
Along with the video, OSHA’s respiratory eTool provides information on the selection of respiratory protection and helps employers comply with the OSHA respirator standard. The eTool is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/respiratory/index.html.
To learn more about safety hazards in the workplace, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.
OSHA Encourages Employer Vigilance on Noise Levels
Hearing loss caused by excessive noise in the workplace remains a serious problem, with approximately 30 million people in the United States occupationally exposed to hazardous noise every year.
Thousands of workers every year suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. Fortunately, the application of engineering controls and hearing conservation programs can reduce or eliminate the majority of incidences of noise-induced hearing loss.
Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss, including more than 22,000 in 2008 alone.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidance regarding what constitutes potentially dangerous noise levels in the following document: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9735.
OSHA recommends that employers use feasible administrative or engineering controls when subjecting employees to sound exceeding levels noted in the standards document. If such controls fail to reduce noise to an acceptable level, the employer should provide personal protective equipment.
For more information on how to protect the health of your work force, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.