10 Apr The missing link in occupational health and safety
How organizations are losing money by not investing in worker health and fitness
How much would you spend to avoid getting injured and losing money later? In other words, what are the costs of injury? Most employers want to avoid workplace injuries. Most employers want to avoid workplace injuries. But just like how most individuals want to avoid disease, behavior does not always reflect intentions (thus why most Canadians are not meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and don’t eat enough vegetables). The most direct consequence of workplace injuries to employers from a financial perspective is that the company’s worker’s compensation board (WCB) premium rates increase. Some other consequences which significantly affect individuals but which cannot be quantified fiscally include:
- The impact on the injured person’s ability to perform activities of daily living and recreational activities
- The secondary effects of the injured person’s disability on family/friends.
- The impact of the injured person’s absence on coworkers and customers.
- Increased stress due to pain, decreased function, and finances (reduced income, increased medical expenses).
- Loss of identity and decrease in self-efficacy due to the disability.
- Lost job/career advancement opportunities as a result of disability and time off work.
In addition to increased WCB premiums and the intangible negative impact on individuals, there are other direct financial and time losses that result from someone being hurt at work, including expenses and lost time due to:
- Rescheduling staff, possibly with extra overtime
- Reduced productivity of the injured worker following return to work
- Lost productivity due to disruption (e.g. delays)
- Hiring and training replacement workers
- Administrative tasks related to the claim (e.g. paperwork, communication with WorkSafeBC and health care providers)
- Ambulance or taxi transport to hospital following an injury, which the employer is required by law to pay
- Assessing, repairing, and/or replacing damaged equipment and products
WorkSafeBC’s Workplace Incident Cost Calculator is a useful tool that allows for estimation of the total direct cost to a company when a worker is hurt at work. This tool accounts for the factors listed above as well as other factors.
Below are examples of workplace injuries and the direct financial loss to the company as a result of them. These examples were taken directly from WorkSafeBC’s Workplace Incident Cost Calculator. The calculations can be seen and adjusted on that website as well as on this spreadsheet.
A motel housekeeper sprained her back while turning a mattress.
Total loss: $1,097
Number of working days to recover incident cost based on an average profit margin of 20%: 3.7
A residential construction worker broke his ankle and forearm after falling 3 m (10 ft.) off an unguarded scaffold onto the main floor of a construction site.
Total loss: $2,530
Number of working days to recover incident cost based on an average profit margin of 5%: 25.3
What else can organizations gain by investing in worker health and fitness?
In addition to avoiding the negative financial and human impacts of workplace injuries, organizations have much to gain from implementing corporate health and fitness initiatives:
- Greater productivity because workers are more physically capable (e.g. in terms of strength, stamina) and have better mental performance  and focus .
- Less absenteeism due to illness or injury, including those unrelated to work.
- Opportunities to foster social cohesion in the workplace through group fitness/recreational activities
How can corporate health and wellness programs better contribute to occupational safety?
When organizations do take measures to avoid workplace injuries, these often are limited to measures to avoid traumatic accidents and making jobs less physically demanding. Of the forward-thinking organizations that do offer employee health and wellness programs that extend beyond accident prevention and expense reimbursement, very few actually provide health and fitness benefits which are customized for the specific physical job demands. This frequently absent component of occupational health and safety would not only reduce injury risk, but also enhance job performance—both important for improving the organization’s bottom line.
How Engineered Bodies can help scenarios like these:
- In-house education: We can give workers knowledge about body mechanics, health, and fatigue management to allow them to work efficiently and safely.
- In-house fitness services: We can improve workers’ flexibility/mobility, strength, movement efficiency, and work capacity with the convenience of our in-house group mobility classes and/or personal training.
- Customized pre-shift warm-up routines for workers: A pre-shift warm-up can help reduce injury risk and improve work performance by immediately improving flexibility, movement, and strength. We can design a short but effective warm-up routine to suit the needs of workers and their jobs.
- Functional Movement Screening: Using a well-researched screening tool, we can identify deficits in coordination that increase someone’s risk for loss of balance and other injuries related to poor movement abilities. Once deficits have been identified, we can help workers correct them. In the case of the construction worker described above, improved balance and coordination would reduce the risk of falling.
- Customized fit-to-work (pre-placement) screening: We can help ensure that job candidates meet the level of fitness required to work safely before they start working physically-demanding jobs.
- In-house personal training: We can help ensure workers and job candidates have the physical capabilities to excel at their jobs and thus improve the company’s performance.
- Jacobs, D. R., & Zhu, N. (n.d.). How Does Exercise Benefit Cognition? Scientific American Mind. Retrieved April 8, 2018, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-exercise-benefit-cognition/
- Davis, J. (2015). Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done. New York: HarperCollins.