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Promoting a healthier workplace
Increasingly, employers are coming to realize that preventing workplace illness and injury through healthy workplace practices reduces the need for workers’ compensation and is a win-win situation for everyone.

Employees in California who are injured or become ill on the job can usually receive workers’ compensation benefits that include medical care and partial replacement of wages lost while they are disabled.

Increasingly, employers are coming to realize that preventing workplace illness and injury through healthy workplace practices reduces the need for workers’ compensation and is a win-win situation for everyone.

Injury risk and family stress

A recent report publicized by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health discussed work and family stress. For example, a common stressor families experience is obtaining daycare. Good daycare is expensive, and families may have a hard time meeting the cost.

Reducing family stresses, the report stated, leads to higher compliance with safety standards and fewer workplace injuries.

The Total Worker Health concept

NIOSH uses a Total Worker Health team approach combining health promotion and protection with a goal of preventing injuries and illnesses in the workplace and promoting well-being among workers.

One company recognized for incorporating TWH principles in the workplace runs retirement communities that have long been offering healthy options for residents and are now doing the same for employees. The company, Erickson Living, realized that its 12,000 employees faced barriers to participating in wellness activities and obtaining health care.

Erickson removed the barriers — time, education, access and cost — through its employee Health and Wellness Centers. At the Centers on the job site employees can receive quick, free or low-cost services. Besides basic sick care, they can also participate in smoking cessation and weight loss programs, exercise and receive referrals.

The investment in worker health has paid off. Including money saved on workers’ compensation claim payments, Erickson is recovering $4.00 for every $1.00 spent on its TWH programs.

General principles

Companies can take steps to reduce family stress. First, company bosses can help by modeling the practices that they want to see in their employees. They can promote healthy family-work balance by taking time off to be with their own families, sending the message that this behavior is okay.

Supervisors and managers can receive training to learn how to support family and workplace balance.

A family-centered resource center for employees could be provided, offering contacts for children’s programs like day camps.

Workers benefit from flexibility in their job hours, research has found. Summer scheduling that allows a shorter or compressed work week may be helpful for families with children home from school, for one thing.

Workplace program support

The Centers for Disease Control began its National Healthy Worksite Program about a year ago. NHWP will help employers create healthier work environments.

Some of the 100 or so employers NHWP will be working with over a two-year period are located in the Bakersfield, California area. NHWP will supply the chosen companies with expertise and support to help develop programs that promote good nutrition and physical exercise and encourage workers to quit smoking.

NHWP will periodically evaluate the results to determine what approaches work the best. Results will be shared all over the country to spread the word about what employers can do to promote employee health.

It can be hoped that more employers will develop ways to help their workers stay healthy and avoid the need for workers’ compensation claims. For any employee who is injured and does need workers’ compensation, a consultation with a California attorney will be helpful, to be sure the employee receives benefits that are rightfully due.

Keywords: workers' compensation, workplace injury, California
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