More than 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by United States employers in 2018. Workplace injuries resulted in 104 million lost days of production and cost employees $35 billion in medical treatment.
As an employee, there are obvious incentives to avoid workplace injuries. But we at Enjuris are interested in exploring some actionable steps people can take to reduce their risk of being hut at work—which led us to this question:
Can doing so be as simple as improving your personal health?
Let’s take a look.
Does improving your health help prevent workplace injuries?
Numerous studies, including one published in the International Journal of Critical Illness & Injury Science and one published in the Journal of Mental Health and Physical Activity, have shown that healthy individuals are more alert and able to respond more quickly to unexpected events.
As a result, healthy individuals are less likely than unhealthy individuals to be injured.
What is “presenteeism?”
Presenteeism is a term used to describe workers who are unable to fully focus on the task at hand due to health-related issues. Workers who suffer from presenteeism are more likely to be injured at work than workers who don’t suffer from presenteeism, particularly if the worker is engaged in a safety-sensitive task, which is often the case in jobs like construction.
Being healthy not only helps workers avoid injuries, but studies show that workers who are healthy recover more quickly from injuries than unhealthy people.
What steps should you take to improve your health?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) partnered with the Oregon State Accident Insurance Fund (OSAIF) to come up with some simple things employees can do to improve their health in a way that will help them avoid workplace injuries:
What to do
Move. Inactivity can cause presenteeism (along with other serious chronic conditions). Brisk activity for just 30 minutes a day improves alertness and cardiac fitness.
Workout. Proper cardio builds muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, and mobility that can help prevent injury.
Sleep. Fatigue contributes to inflammation, obesity, impaired judgment, reduced mental flexibility, and slower response times.
What to consume
Healthy food. Avoid refined, processed, and sugary foods, which can all lead to inflammation, obesity, and other chronic conditions. Sugary foods may also lead to presenteeism.
Water. When dehydrated, your brain function drops and your blood pressure and heart rate rise. What’s more, you become more prone to soft tissue injuries.
What to avoid
Stress. It’s not always easy to avoid stress, but stress negatively impacts your health and behavior.
Tobacco. Tobacco and nicotine use contribute to presenteeism by diminishing overall health.
Employer health and wellness programs
Just as employees have an incentive to avoid workplace injuries, employers have an incentive to keep their employees healthy. When an employee suffers a work injury, their employer faces a number of additional expenses, which may include:
- Insurance costs
- Medical costs
- Interruption in production immediately following the accident
- Personnel and time allocated to investigating and writing up the accident report
- Recruitment and training costs for replacement workers
- Damage to equipment and materials
- Reduction in product quality following the accident if less experienced replacement workers are used
- Legal costs
Employers who understand the importance of a healthy workforce often offer employees health-related benefits or otherwise encourage their employees to engage in healthy behaviors. For example, employers may:
- Offer free or reduced-cost gym memberships
- Encourage employees to take a short walk after lunch
- Stock the break room with healthy snacks
- Invite healthcare professionals to speak with employees about ways to reduce stress or balance life-work routines
- Provide employees with better healthcare plans
Does your employer have any programs designed to help you improve your health and safety?
Let us know about it in the comments below.