Research shows that, in the U.S. alone, illness and injury cost employers as much at $576 annually. The good news? Businesses can significantly lower those costs by concentrating on the Three Ps:
Create programs for health and safety to keep your bottom line from getting hurt.
When it comes to developing a program for health and safety, it is important to consider two factors: compliance and internal initiatives.
Investing in programs to meet safety regulations has many benefits beyond just avoiding fines for non-compliance. OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reports that workplaces that establish safety and health management systems can reduce their injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent. Given the demanding detail in many regulations, hiring outside experts to help plan and implement these systems is likely well worth the investment.
Developing a company culture focused on wellness can also deliver cost savings, both through a reduction in direct health insurance expenses and in lowering losses from the absenteeism and diminished productivity that even routine illnesses cause. While studies report mixed results with the large-scale initiatives that look to change the core lifestyle behaviors of employees beyond the workplace, small-scale, common sense efforts at work can have a big impact. For instance, the Center for Disease Control says that instituting a program for better hand hygiene is like giving your workforce a do-it-yourself vaccine, reducing incidences of the common cold by 21%. The CDC adds that such initiatives can even help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.
Take advantage of workplace products that keep workers well
Encouraging workplace hygiene by reinforcing the importance of hand washing and by providing hand sanitizer is one simple way to keep workers healthy. Another is to replace rental shop towels with disposable industrial wipes, which prevents exposure to toxins that may remain in rental towels even after cleaning. These are just two examples and, because new product innovations are always emerging, it pays to keep abreast of advancements that can improve the health and safety of workers.
Hire the people who can make it all work
Building a culture that focuses on wellness won t happen by itself; you need internal experts and champions to inform, equip and inspire your organization. In some companies, this role may be filled by an Industrial Safety Manager, with an education in occupational and workplace health and safety practices. In others, the charge to reduce illness and injury may even be led by someone with the emerging title of Industrial Hygienist (a role now sufficiently prominent to have its own national association, the AHIA). Working alongside your operational, human resource and communications leaders, these technical experts can identify your specific risk areas, and formulate plans to address them across functions.
Programs. Products. People. How you pursue the Three Ps may determine how well you control costs associated with illness and injury.
Forbes: US Workforce Illness Costs $576B Annually
NY Times: Do Wellness Programs Work?
OSHA: Safety and Health Add Value
Wired: Taking a Culture-First Mentality with Workplace Wellness
CDC: Handwashing Guidelines
CDC: Protect Against Flu