Now that summer is almost here, people will naturally be more active. This makes it a good time for companies to review and define policies, programs, plans and practices that integrate worker safety and employee health.
Evidence increasingly suggests that healthier workforces operate more safely. As a result, companies are encouraged to provide ongoing communication, training and resources to encourage safe and healthy workers.
Here are five ways companies can help their workers be healthier during the busy summer months ahead.
- Exercise – People who reported moderate activity or exercise had significantly less risk of developing 13 different types of cancer than people who were sedentary.
Companies can help employees increase their activity levels through education and by providing resources to use at work and at home. Some of these may include exercise classes, seminars, incentive programs and employee competitions. Other options include walking clubs, softball leagues, company golf or other sports activities promoted by the company.
- Nutrition – More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese.
Companies can promote healthy eating in the workplace by providing food labeling and healthy dietary choices at the work site in cafeterias, snack bars, vending machines, meetings and during company-sponsored events, such as holiday parties. Employers can also work with their health providers on more comprehensive wellness programs that include biometrics testing, health risk assessments, individual employee health goals, incentives and other resources.
- Fatigue – People who experience sleep insufficiency are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes, depression and obesity, as well as from increased mortality, more accidents, and reduced quality of life and productivity.
Companies should consider assessing fatigue in the workplace with an emphasis on safety-sensitive jobs. This could include implementing a Fatigue Risk Management System (FRMS) and reviews of worker schedules, shifts, and/or work rotations. Educating and training employees on the health and safety risks associated with poor sleep habits can help them better manage work/life challenges.
- Sprains and Strains – Nearly 1/3 of all work-related injuries/illnesses are musculoskeletal related.
Companies should consider implementing workplace stretching programs and good ergonomic practices. These programs can help employees increase flexibility, range of motion, circulation, and promote better posture and manual material handling. All of these benefits can help minimize the frequency and severity of sprains and strains in the workplace.
- Sun Exposures and Heat Illnesses – This time of year, it is important for companies to be mindful of employees that spend a majority of their time working outdoors. Nearly five million people are treated for skin cancer each year in the United States and thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat.
Encourage employees to cover up and wear lightweight clothing that blocks the sun’s rays. Companies should also try to limit the amount of exposure for employees working outside whenever possible. Encourage them to wear sunscreen, wide-brim hats and UV sunglasses. Also encourage them to drink plenty of water throughout the day, rest indoors or in the shade during breaks, and provide misters or fans when practical.