Wellness programs are an important asset to the health and safety of a workplace

When companies deal with health and safety issues, they often consider the cost of safety supplies and equipment. Medical expenses and traditional health benefits often appear to be the most essential financial needs for safety departments and EHS professionals. Curiously enough, many employers overlook one of the simplest solutions of all - employee wellness.

Wellness refers to general strategies to make employees healthier. It offers a number of benefits, including reducing the cost of health insurance, reducing the severity of workplace injuries, and giving workers more energy and flexibility to do their jobs. In addition to personal protective equipment and comprehensive medical coverage, wellness can go a long way toward making workers safer.

Financial advantages
It can be difficult to add up the savings that a wellness program will provide, but the Vermont Department of Health estimates that a workforce in poor health can indirectly cost a company two to three times what the direct medical costs would have been.

The level of effort that workers put into their jobs can also be greatly affected by wellness. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Preventing Chronic Disease published a study of an Austin, Texas, company that started a wellness program in 2009. Besides increases in general health and fitness, the program was responsible for significant reductions in expenses caused by employee healthcare and absenteeism.

Absenteeism is when employees don't come to work for various health-related reasons. Seasonal illness, workplace injuries, and other causes of ill health are at the heart of absenteeism. Another important pitfall that workplaces must avoid is presenteeism, which is when staff members come to work when they're sick and transmit their illnesses to co-workers, leading to even greater absenteeism, reduced productivity, and higher costs.

Types of wellness programs
Quite a few of these programs are meant to reduce obesity and reduce the risk of heart disease among personnel. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Some organizations choose to include gym memberships and nutritionist consultations in employee benefits packages and encourage workers to use them. Others hold exercise clinics and sessions after work, either on company property or offsite.

Wellness programs can also be used to address another severe risk to employee health - tobacco use. Many workers who smoke have elevated risks for heart disease and high blood pressure. One way to address this issue is to ban smoking on premises. Companies could also choose to offer literature explaining the benefits of quitting or even provide medical discounts to workers who quit.

Safe and healthy workplaces
Wellness programs can be a good way for companies to provide additional compensation to their workers and can significantly reduce costs that are associated with medical insurance, absenteeism, and disability. Healthy work environments will also be much more productive and will promote a strong ethic of fitness and safety to all workers.

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