In today's business world we are faced with escalating healthcare costs. Employees are asked to contribute more to the cost of their healthcare policy and employers are providing wellness programs and incentives to change behavior and ultimately improve employee's health and reduce costs. Smart investments can work to bring these costs down, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This remains true in health and workers' compensation. MEMIC prides itself on partnering with employers to create safe workplaces so injuries don’t happen and helping employees recover from injury as quickly as possible. Changing workplace culture by emphasizing prevention helped bring workers’ comp costs in Maine down by more than 50% and lost-time injuries down by about 40% since MEMIC’s inception in 1993.[i]
Preventing injuries still remains a primary focus but has become more complicated as the percentage of obese and overweight workers has reached epidemic proportions. The adult obesity rate in the United States has more than doubled in 20 years, from less than 12% in 1991 to more than 27% in 2011.[ii] Studies have shown what common sense knows: the range of medical treatment and time to recover are all greater for obese employees, with medical costs being three times higher in the first year and five times higher at 60 months.[iii] This is one reason why MEMIC has begun helping employers meet this challenge and in the past 3 years we have focused on expanding the traditional emphasis of workplace safety to include ergonomics and wellness.
You don’t have to be a big company to be serious about employee wellness. In many states, like Maine, employers with 20 or fewer employees are allowed an annual tax credit for comprehensive workplace wellness programs.[iv] Putting a focus on employee wellness does not need to be expensive or time consuming. You may have heard people say “Sitting is the new smoking.” Something as simple as doing regular stand and stretch breaks can be a great place to start. See my other post about the little things that can cause back pain: http://memicsafety.typepad.com/memic_safety_blog/2012/05/the-little-things-can-cause-back-pain.html
Here is a list of workplace wellness program resources:
WELCOA (The Wellness Council of America) has free resources like case studies, presentations, surveys and samples.
The American Heart Associations’ Fit-Friendly Worksites Program has a free worksite wellness toolkit and employee resources, such as an online activity tracker, walking and exercise programs, and healthy eating resources.
National Business Group for Health offers resources and represents large employers' perspective on national health policy issues.
Partnership for Workplace Mental Health works with businesses to ensure that employees and their families living with mental illness, including substance use disorders, receive effective care.
National Health Awards offers descriptions of award winning employee health promotion programs.
Scoping paper by the Australian Government: “Overweight and obesity: implications for workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation”