Manufacturing News

Employee health the latest business investment strategy

THERE is a growing business case for workplace health programs, with healthy employees nearly three times as productive as unhealthy colleagues and employees with poor health taking up to nine times more sick leave than their healthy counterparts.

And with as many as 77 per cent of Australians reporting at least one chronic health condition in a 2004-05 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey, there’s increasing pressure on employers to make a positive impact to health.

In her 14 August address to the WA Safety Conference, Corporate Bodies International state manager Catherine Jarman will explain how investing in an effective workplace health program can benefit employee health and even save money.

Jarman approximates that for every dollar a business spends on an effective workplace health program, it reaps $6 of savings — in the form of increased employee productivity and reduced absenteeism, workers compensation claims and staff turnover.

It’s an issue that’s not going to go away, as the risk of developing multiple health conditions increases with age. Jarman says Australia’s ageing population means we’ll see skilled employees staying in the workforce longer and proactive employers will introduce schemes to lift their health.

“If an overweight worker develops type 2 diabetes mellitis, losing weight will improve insulin sensitivity and help stabilise blood sugar levels to abate fatigue and poor concentration as well as longer term health complications such as blindness, amputation and kidney failure,” she says.

“Organisations need to put the ‘health’ back into occupational health and safety (OHS). In some organisations, OHS deals with core safety issues and little else. Others tick the health strategy box by offering simplistic models such as providing flu vaccinations.”

Jarman reports that until recently, it’s been an uphill battle to convince Australian managers of the benefits of effective workplace health programs in a country that has seen “patchy” implementation of such programs.

She believes companies that take a scientific, evidence-based approach will find success in a well-structured, outcomes-driven program.

“Conducting an effective program requires a strong needs-based assessment — and this is exactly how a good business case should be put together too.”

“Putting aside the question of whether or not employers should be responsible for offering health promotion to their employees, there’s plenty of evidence to show that effective programs can improve fitness, successfully reduce weight and help employees quit smoking.”

It’s a win-win scenario, says Jarman, who points to an analysis of 14 health programs that reported reductions in absenteeism of between 12 and 36 per cent.

Corporate Bodies International says effective workplace health programs can have a positive effect on:

• job satisfaction and performance

• absenteeism

• recruitment and retention

• company image

• workers compensation claims.

Jarman will detail the steps that are critical to implementing a successful workplace health program during her address at the WA Safety Conference on 14 August.

The WA Safety Show and Conference will run from Tuesday August 12 to Thursday August 14 at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre concurrently with the WA Safety Show. Host, the Safety Institute of Australia in WA, says it will be Western Australia’s biggest combined safety conference and safety trade show.

The conference is backed by principal sponsor, the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection, Government of Western Australia, as well as the Perth Convention Bureau and the Department of Industry & Resources (WA). For more information, visit, email or phone Australian Exhibitions & Conferences on 03 9654 7773.

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