June is National Safety Month and an opportunity for all of us to raise health and safety awareness. This can be at work, at home, and in our lives in general. Last week we talked about employers encouraging their workplaces to “Stand Ready to Respond” in case of a workplace incident. This week, the National Safety Council (NSC) encourages us to “Be Healthy.” In our workplaces, this can be interpreted in many different ways, and employers have many different options for how they can choose to support the health of their workforce. Here are a couple ideas we’ve rounded up.
Help Your Employees Avoid Fatigue
Being tired doesn’t feel good. But in the workplace, being tired can also be very dangerous. The symptoms of fatigue include memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, errors in judgment, and slower reaction times. All of these symptoms can increase the risk of injuries and other on-the-job accidents.
In addition to increasing the likelihood of a workplace incident, fatigue can lead to more sick time and absenteeism. It can also lead to a higher rate of turnover at your company. In short, fatigue has a direct impact on the bottom line. So how can workplaces help their workers avoid fatigue and its consequences?
Fatigue is increasing across the board, with some experts going so far as to call it an epidemic. It is also often a concern in industries that require shift work or night work. Employers can support their employees’ health in this area by creating work schedules with sleep requirements in mind. Ideal schedules give workers time for restful sleep and the ability to develop consistent sleep patterns. This also promotes the quality of sleep, which can be just as important as the quantity.
If your industry often requires long shifts or frequent overtime, consider if it’s possible to provide amenities for employees to lighten the burden this places on them. For example, prepared meals, on-site accommodations, or a place for workers to recharge before driving home. David Kuhlmann, a medical director who specializes in sleep, advises health and safety professionals to consider establishing napping facilities in the workplace. Studies show that a quick 10-15 minute nap during a shift break can boost employee morale and efficiency. Allowing time to recharge also reduces the risk of workers turning to substance abuse to help them stay alert.
Support Employee Health Following an Injury or Illness
The time that it takes to recover from an injury or illness is often a challenging one for employees. Employers should ask themselves how they can best support each individual returning to work following an injury or illness. Ideally this will involve an honest and helpful conversation with the employee in question.
The bare minimum required of an employer is to ensure that work is modified to suit the worker’s limitations and capabilities. However, a defined return-to-work program can support the injured employee in many additional ways, ultimately helping them return to work in a healthy, safe and timely manner. This approach can also help maintain worker and employer relationships during a difficult transition by demonstrating to the worker that they are a valuable and respected member of the team.
Educate & Engage With Your Workforce
Many employers are now going above and beyond to engage their employees with workplace activities and benefits that encourage active lifestyles. Consider polling your employees to find out how you might be able to make it easier for them to fit exercise into their work day. For example, providing secure bike parking for those who wish to cycle to work, or lockers for those who like to workout at lunch.
Some companies bring in speakers to lead sessions on healthy habits like nutrition or meditation. Many offer resources to help employees quit unhealthy habits, such as smoking cessation programs. Others even run competitions to encourage their employees to get in on the action and increase their exercise. There’s no shortage of fun ideas if your company is looking to take workplace wellness to the next level.
Don’t Forget Mental Health!
While it may not receive as much visibility as physical health, employers can play a valuable role in supporting the mental health of their workers. Fortunately, all of the above strategies support the mental health of your employees in addition to their physical health. They do this by creating a positive work environment and promoting work-life balance. However, it’s also important to make sure that mental health is protected in the workplace. Make it clear that conflict should always be resolved in a respectful manner. Workers must engage with one another as equals, and derogatory words and actions do not belong in the workplace.
“Be Healthy” is an important concept to integrate into your company’s safety culture. Whether you find inspiration in the ideas suggested above, or you have another workplace health initiative in mind, what matters most is the emphasis on health in the workplace. “Safety Smart” employers are committed to promoting workplace wellness in its many forms, because they understand that nurturing a healthy workplace is one of the best way to ensure a safe workplace.
Visit the National Safety Council’s website for more information on National Safety Month and other workplace safety resources.
How does your workplace encourage employees to be healthy? Do you have any ideas to add to the list? Leave a comment and let us know!