Occupational Health/Safety
(5 Minute Read)

Occupational Health—What is it, and do you need to be thinking about it?

For most full-time employees, almost as much time is spent at work as at home in a given week. The work environment is much like a second home for your employees and consequently has a huge impact on their lives. These past couple years have raised many questions about the safety and impact of the workplace. With COVID-19 moving many jobs out of the office and remote work becoming more common, many workers may be hesitant about returning to their workplace. Business owners have had to cope with the changes in office dynamics as well. From coordinating remote work to developing health protocols and behaviors around the workplace, healthy work environments have been on the minds of business owners more than ever. Business owners and employees have this in common: they want their workplace to be a safe environment that will help them thrive. This is the foundation of occupational health—creating a safe and healthy environment and preventing hazards. So how do you begin to approach the topic of occupational health within your organization?

Honest Assessment

It all begins with a little transparency. Any organization that wants to improve their occupational health status must first have an accurate picture of where they are. An important thing to realize about occupational health is that it is multidimensional. It goes beyond simple safety measures and avoiding accidents. The health of employees and their ability to thrive in the workplace is impacted by quite a few conditions:

Safety Conditions

Physical safety is the obvious candidate when it comes to health. An unsafe environment is an unhealthy environment. Vice versa, a safe environment can empower employees to be at their best. Safety is more than a few posters and rules posted around the warehouse. Safety needs to be a proactive strategy. It begins with an assessment of potential risks, behaviors, and exposure. This assessment should then be employed to create a data-driven plan of attack to not only cope with, but prevent incidents. Becoming safer works. In the annual Safety Management in the Construction Industry SmartMarket Report data was compared for contractors who worked on their safety programs over the course of 3 years. Across a variety of factors, the contractors saw noticeable improvement [1].

Impact of Safety on Project and/or Business Success Factors [1]

 

Work Conditions

The multi-dimensionality of occupational health becomes very apparent when considering the conditions your employees work in. Work conditions include job design—how a role is structured and how much control employees have over their role and responsibilities. It also includes things like perceived justice and fairness within the organization and how secure an employee feels in their role. Employees thrive in environments that make them feel engaged. A study conducted in Malaysia found that employees who felt engaged with their company and its mission had better work outcomes than their peers. [2]

Financial Conditions

Economic factors can be very stressful. A vital element of any occupational health strategy is to ensure that financial stressors for your team are mitigated and addressed. Employees should feel that they are fairly compensated and rewarded for their efforts. Another major component that has come under scrutiny recently is health insurance. More and more companies are choosing to avoid providing health insurance and employees are bearing the burden. [3]  

The National Small Business Association found that between 2014 and 2015 the percentage of small businesses (less than 500 employees) offering health insurance dropped from 70% to 65%. That trend has continued, with the 2018 survey indicating that number had dropped to 56%.[4] While your company may feel worried about the financial burdens of healthcare for your people, it is important to ensure that you are thinking about the impact your plan has on them. Start having a conversation with your team—and continue to focus on improving occupational health throughout your organization and promote health on all levels.  

Mental Health Condition

A conversation on occupational health would not be complete if we didn’t mention the importance of mental health in the workplace. Too long, mental health has been stigmatized, with those suffering from mental health issues often feeling unsafe, unwelcome, and discriminated against. It is a difficult topic, especially considering that it is very specific to the individuals within an organization. However, the facts show that mental health can have a substantial impact on the health of an organization as a whole and not just the individuals suffering. In one study of the workforce in the UK, it was found that around 30-40% of work absence is caused by mental health issues, while in the Netherlands almost 60% of work-related disabilities were tied to mental health [5]. These numbers indicate that an organization will experience real loss due to absenteeism, disability payouts, and productivity loss. A change in tan organization’s culture won’t happen overnight, but there are several ways to begin creating a healthier environment for all employees:

  • Strive to eliminate toxic behaviors within the workplace. This includes name calling, making fun of others, projections of superiority, and statements that imply absolutes. There should be no room within your organization for behaviors that make anyone else feel that they do not belong. It is important that employees feel that there is compassion and room for support within their environment.  
  • Train leaders to ensure that they can effectively communicate, consult and converse with employees. There are several training programs specifically designed to enable managers to resolve mental health related issues.  
  • Create a learning environment instead of a punishing environment. A learning environment makes sure that it provides avenues for people with different needs. Go beyond lectures and traditional training with non-didactic learning like experiences and games. When an organization can learn, it can also change.  
  • Be inclusive. Look for people on the outskirts of the organization, and do your best to include them and make them feel they belong. In a world with more and more remote work, create a plan to ensure that all members of your team truly belong.  

Making a change

Occupational health is a multidimensional field. Every business faces a unique challenge. Your employees, your mission, and your particular strengths and weaknesses are one-of-a-kind. It may seem overwhelming, or too much to face. And maybe the biggest question is: is occupational health really worth the investment?  

The simple answer is this—companies that create healthy environments for their employees have better business outcomes. In a 2015 study conducted at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, researchers found that organizations with strong health, safety and environmental programs outperformed the S&P 500. In another concurrent study, a company was studied that began investing in their employees' health via health programs and other strategies to revamp their occupational health culture. Over the course of 5 years, the study was able to link their program to an 8% increase in profits. [4] Studies have repeatedly found that companies who invest in the health and safety of their employees develop a more engaged workforce that thrives and in turn elevate their company’s outcomes.

Publicly traded CHAA recipients versus S&P 500 [7]

Changing the culture of an organization is not a simple task. It will take time and effort. If you notice—the studies above took place over the course of years, not months. However, data doesn't lie. If you want to empower your team to achieve your organizational goals and set yourself on a long term path to success, occupational health should not be ignored

A partner in cultural change

At Ledgestone, we put people first. We believe that organizations who empower their team to be at their best will be successful in the long run. This is why we partner with our clients in creating a culture shift when it comes to occupational health. Our process focuses on getting honest, holistic insight into where an organization is at, and then leveraging that data to create and implement strategies that will create a healthier culture long-term:

Assessment

Our experts will gather data-points from the top to the bottom of your organization. Via surveys, observation, and other proprietary tools we get a full picture of where you are currently at. Think of it as a health check-up for the organization.  

Planning

The data we collect is the foundation of our planning process. After thorough analysis, we work with an organization to ensure that we create strategies to enhance strengths and combat weaknesses. We focus on creating plans that will be sustainable and adaptable, setting up long term success.

Implementation

Authentic relationships are vital to us. This means that we don’t sell you a plan and then leave you on your own. Our mission is to be a long term strategic partner. We stand by you throughout the implementation of strategies, making adjustments, providing training, and supporting you in your culture shift.

The health of your organization, and your people, is vital. Take a look around at your team. If you are interested in making some tough changes that will elevate your occupational health culture, empower your employees, and help you achieve your business goals—we would love to learn more about you and your team. Click the link below to contact one of our occupational health experts.

Exergy Pro team →

References
  1. DODGE Data & Analytics. Building a Safety Culture: Improving Safety and Health Management in the Construction Industry. 2016. https://www.cpwr.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/Building-a-Safety-Culture-SmartMarket-Report-2016-ff.pdf
  1. Ologbo, A. C., & Saudah, S. Individual Factors and Work Outcomes of Employee Engagement. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 40, 498–508. 2012.
  1. Musilek, J. (n.d.). The Top 7 Workplace Factors that Impact Employee Health. Great Place to Work®. https://www.greatplacetowork.com/resources/blog/the-top-7-workplace-factors-that-impact-employee-health.
  1. National Small Business Association. NSBA Small Business Health Care Survey. 2015.
  1. Rajgopal, T.  Mental well-being at the workplace. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 14(3), 63. 2010. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5278.75691
  1. Orchard, C.  The Business Benefits of a Healthy Workforce. Executive and Continuing Professional Education. 2019, July 29. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/ecpe/the-business-benefits-of-a-healthy-workforce/.
  1. Fabius, R. Tracking the Market Performance of Companies That Integrate a Culture of Health and Safety. Elk Grove Village, IL; American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2015. https://acoem.org/acoem/media/PracticeResources/Tracking_the_Market_Performance_of_Companies_That-2.pdf