Every year on April 28th, the International Labour Organization (ILO) recognizes The World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
Increasingly, workers feel the pressure of the demands of their professional and private life. Technological innovations such as the Smartphone drive the need for instant communications. Economic instability and international unrest cause greater concern for organizations around the globe. As a result, many workers faces multiple and complex pressures that distract from placing enough focus on workplace safety.
In job settings where heavy machinery and equipment are operated, it may seem easier to imagine worksite dangers and the need for vigilance regarding health and safety awareness, but what about in a climate-controlled office building? Surprisingly, there are numerous risk factors that require attention. Several simple office modifications can be implemented to prevent workplace hazards for office staff.
From ergonomics assessments to proper placement of screens, office chairs and filing cabinets, employees can prevent injuries from occurring as well as adding to benefit claims costs through increases in disability costs, prescription medications and paramedical services usage.
Here are a list of my top five tips to avoid office worksite risks to staff:
1) Tidy up to stay clutter-free. Falls, slips and trips represent the number one office injury. Remind employees to keep boxes, files and other items clear of walkways and hallways. Ensure that electrical cords are properly secured and covered too.
2) Be aware of reaching for objects. Always use a proper stepladder and never an office chair to reach for something at an elevated height.
3) Surface awareness. Certain surfaces can be slippery including marble or tile floors. Placing carpets and other skid-resistant surfaces can help reduce or prevent falls and slips. This preventative measure is particularly helpful when dealing with rainy or snowy weather conditions.
4) Safe files and stacking. Filing cabinets and stacking hazards. When file cabinets are left open or extended, they can be more easily knocked over or pose a tripping hazard.
5) Ergonomics and adjustability. It isn't uncommon for employers to balk at the cost of speciality workstations, chairs and monitor stands or even the cost of a thorough ergonomics assessment. Chairs and workstations should be easily adjustable to accommodate the needs of the widest range of workers.
Experts in the industry insist that the investment in ergonomics equipment outweighs the cost of health claims that result in tens of thousands of dollars in medical treatments and loss of productivity at work.
Most office workers spend the majority of their time working on a computer or seated at a desk. Aside from sitting disease, workers are more prone to improper posture and repetitive movement strains. These injuries can be prevented. For more information and ways to curve your benefits related spend, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
For many employers, there has been an emphasis on managing absence-related costs. A critical component of attendance management that tends not be factored into the cost equation pertains to presenteeism. It is defined as the act of attending work while sick or the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job and it is believed to be more costly than its well-studied counterpart, absenteeism.
According to Patricia Schaefer, a staff writer for Business Know-How, the total cost of presenteeism to US employers ranges between $150 and $250 billion annually. In Canada, presenteeism costs Canadian businesses $15-25 billion per year.
While some may believe that presenteeism relates to workers who are slacking off, it is more about workers who come to work with an illness that negatively affects their productivity and could potentially infect co-workers and even customers. Depending on the industry, infected employees who show up to work may seriously compromise the health and safety of the general public.
In 2004, an excellent article written by Paul Hemp for the Harvard Business Review highlighted the results of a study on presenteeism and the impact of 28 medical conditions on productivity at Lockheed Martin Corp. The big reveal was that employees who showed up to work with allergies, headaches, lower-back pain, arthritis and cold symptoms cost the company $34 million in one year. Surprisingly, allergies and sinus trouble weighed in at 1.8 million of the productivity drain.
There is a bit of a double-edged sword when employers try to address absenteeism; it can tend to drive up the incidence of presenteeism where productivity losses remain harder to quantify.
Here are five employer solutions to help address the rising cost of this all to often hidden employment issue:
1) If possible and if the organization is resourced accordingly, work with Human Resources professionals to train people leaders about the realities of presenteeism, its effects on productivity, how to recognize it, how to coach direct reports and manage the business so that work continues in a safe and healthy manner.
2) Create or update the absence management policy to include presenteeism. It is important for employees to understand the company's position on presenteeism and that coming to work sick can negatively impact others. When employees know the guidances and the employer's position, they will make better choices because they are clear on what is acceptable.
3) Allow for paid sick leave and avoid disciplinary action that pressures sick employees to come to work. Encourage employees to go home if they are sick or stay home without fear of compromising their employment contract or the view the company has of them as a good worker.
4) Remind employees about hand washing and ways to avoid spreading germs. Read my blog on tips for avoiding colds and flus for specific suggestions.
5) Promote wellness programs and health clinics where possible. Promote free flu clinics and help employees become aware of the symptoms, duration of contagion, and ways to reduce existing symptoms. Read my blog on workplace wellness trends for details.
Presenteeism doesn't drive up productivity or profits and employees shouldn't feel like they are doing something positive by coming into the workplace when they are unwell. From presenteeism policies to specific employee engagement tactics, there are many ways to foster a healthy workplace. Contact us for more ideas. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
April is Dental Hygiene Awareness Month. Based on data collected between 2007 - 2009 by Statistics Canada for the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), 64% of Canadians have private dental insurance, 6% have public insurance and 32% have no dental coverage whatsoever.
Whether during the month of April or at other times of the year, it is important to promote oral health in the workplace because at any age, dental decay, gum disease, and some cancers can be prevented. A healthy smile also promotes a better first impression for customer-facing employees.
In addition, good oral health benefits both employees and employers as it correlates to greater productivity and better attendance outcomes. Based on the CHMS report, an estimated 2.26 million school-days and 4.15 million working-days are lost annually due to dental visits or dental sick-days.
Tips to help promote oral health in the workplace include;
1) Post messages, posters and reminders for employees to encourage tooth brushing during the work day and promote the importance of hydration by drinking water (approximately eight, 8 ounce glasses per day). Fluoride in our tap water provides an automatic defense against harmful ingredients that cause oral health disease. Fluoride is an important defense against tooth decay. Drinking fluorinated tap water is safe and less costly than getting a filing dealt with by the dentist
2) Encourage regular dental visits and provide information about the frequency of dental recalls based on the provisions outlined in your group benefits plan. A dentist can examine the mouth for signs of periodontal disease and oral cancer, which are highly treatable if caught early. It is helpful to visit the dentist at least twice a year for routine cleanings and checkups. Regular cleanings include tooth scaling which removes tartar from teeth and this can't be done at home.
3) Seek opportunities to dial up messages during oral health and dental hygiene awareness months or National Smile Week.
4) Provide information relative to generational oral health patterns. Modern dentistry supports the goal of keeping natural teeth healthy for as long as possible. In order to meet this goal, regular dental check ups are encouraged especially because later in life, gums may recede and expose root surfaces. Exposed roots are more susceptible to tooth decay and cavities.
Raising awareness through targeted communications can help save on future dental costs, help employees maintain clean and health teeth, and potentially diagnose gum disease or tooth decay early. When employees adopt a correct tooth brushing regime, they avoid unnecessary and costly unplanned dental visits and potentially increased absences from the workplace. For more tips about oral health promotion, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.