Safety and wellness are critical programs employers should provide for their workforce, but they’re often handled separately. Although safety and wellness programs impact the same employee population, there are some distinct differences in the eyes of employers:
Safety programs are common in all industries, especially those where there’s a higher risk for injury (e.g. construction or manufacturing). Employers often initiate safety programs because it’s an OSHA requirement. Typically, these programs are managed by a safety director, risk manager or human resources. Safety programs are mandatory for employees and are enforceable as a basic term of employment.
These programs are becoming more popular and can be used as a perk for talent recruitment and retention. They promote healthy behaviors such as proper eating habits, weight management, smoking cessation, preventative checkups and other activities impacting the health and well-being of employees. Wellness programs are not government required but are recommended and considered a “best practice” for companies interested in managing health insurance costs. They’re voluntary for employees to participate in and require engagement to be successful.
Merging Safety and Wellness
Safety and wellness programs have many areas of mutual impact, providing a real benefit to employees and your bottom line. These areas of mutual impact can decrease the number of injuries and illnesses and reduce related insurance premiums. Some examples include:
- Back Injury Prevention – This can be addressed in a safety program by focusing on ergonomic improvements and implementing employee training related to proper body mechanics. From a wellness perspective, employers can focus on obesity reduction, which greatly increases the potential for a back injury and other medical complications that require significant healthcare costs.
- High Blood Pressure and Stress – These impact both safe behavior and decision-making on the job and can create significant health issues. If not properly addressed through wellness initiatives, high blood pressure and stress can minimize the effectiveness of safety training, delay an employee’s return to work and also spike the use of healthcare services.
Some large organizations have already started combining their safety and wellness programs. I get large organizations often have resources beyond that of a middle market company. However, combining safety and wellness doesn’t have to be a significant financial investment. Being able to effectively intersect the two is often driven by employee engagement and will likely have a positive effect on a mid-sized employer’s bottom line.
About the Author: Michael Rivas
Michael Rivas is Senior Vice President, Risk Services at Assurance. He oversees the company’s risk services department, which includes compliance, wellness, risk transfer, safety and claims. Michael is responsible for integrating risk management services that provide a more holistic approach to minimizing risk and maximizing health. Michael received a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Governors State University. He sits on the Governors State Advisory Board and is a member of the Illinois Occupational Therapy Association, Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers and American Occupational Therapy Association. He’s authored several published articles and has spoken on a wide range of risk management topics for various associations.