Did you know that in 2011, more than 4,600 workers died in the United States due to an injury on the job? Or that in 2009, about 572,000 violent crimes, such as rape, robbery, and assault happened against people ages 16 and older while they were at work? Or that in 2011, musculoskeletal disorders made up 33 percent of all work-related injury and illness cases?
Today’s National Public Health Week theme is Creating a Healthy Workplace. We’ve made great progress in workplace safety in just a few decades, thanks to workers’ rights and public health movements. Employers are now required to ensure safe conditions for workers, and according to the National Safety Council, deaths from unintentional work injuries declined 90% from 1933 to 1997. However, workers still get injured on the job, and oftentimes such accidents are completely preventable.
Some easy ways to prevent these tragedies are for employers to understand and follow all safety regulations and provide the required equipment to keep workers safe, such as respiratory gear and hard hats. It’s also important to educate employees about the safety regulations so that they will be able to recognize and report unsafe or unhealthy settings.
Although jobs that require handling equipment and performing strenuous activities are often the ones we think of when considering workplace safety, increasingly we are discovering that other jobs contain hidden risks. For instance, jobs in sectors such as Information Technology pose new problems due to the sedentary nature of the work. Workers who spend long amounts of time sitting are often more at risk for obesity, heart disease, and several other health issues, so consider organizing times for employees to take walks or do stretches – it will help keep employees active, allow them time to socialize, and leave them feeling refreshed and ready to concentrate.
We must continue to find new ways to ensure safe and healthy conditions for employees, especially because research shows that investing in workplace wellness programs helps reduce healthcare costs for both employers and employees, and also has significant impacts on workers’ health.
Thankfully, there are many simple steps you can take to create workplace wellness, such as posting hand-washing reminders, catering meetings with healthy foods, and encouraging employees to use preventive care, such as getting yearly flu shots. And if you provide employer-based health insurance, consider offering certain financial incentives for behaviors that can improve health, such as incentivizing employees to quit using tobacco. After all, research finds that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar invested in workplace wellness programs.
Considering how much time we spend at work every day, there’s no better place to start making changes to encourage a healthy lifestyle! So consider starting up a “Walk and Talk” activity during your lunch hour to get moving and get to know your co-workers better at the same time, or bring in healthy snacks for meetings instead of chips or cookies. There are lots of ways to move towards a healthier lifestyle at work – so what will you do?