How to Implement Health and Safety Initiatives at Your Company (and why you should)

By Sean Flavin June 10th, 2021

Does your company offer health and safety initiatives for your employees? If not, you might be missing out on a significant opportunity to attract and retain talent. According to an OfficeTeam survey, roughly three in four workers consider health and wellness offerings when choosing a job.

Additionally, unhealthy workers cost employers significant sums of money. According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), absenteeism costs employers anywhere from $16 to $286 per employee per year, depending on company size.

To explain how health and safety initiatives can help employers curb costs and promote employee engagement, our own Liz Urban took a turn hosting Captive Resources’ (CRI) regular Risk Control Webinar series. As AVP of Health and Wellness Services at CRI, Urban works with Medical Stop Loss captive members on their health risk management and healthcare cost containment. Before CRI, Urban managed and implemented health and wellness initiatives for a large manufacturing company.

In her presentation, Urban discussed how organizations can implement initiatives to improve the health and wellness of employees, upgrade workplace safety, and save money. Here is a brief overview of some key points from Urban’s presentation.

Importance of Health and Safety Initiatives

As we mentioned before, employees want their employers to offer health and safety programs, including initiatives across a broad spectrum of related topics. A recent poll from Unum asked 1,500 workers to select up to three of their most desired non-insurance benefits from employers. The results included several health and safety initiatives, including gym membership/onsite fitness center, fitness or healthy lifestyle incentives, personalized health coaching, and more.

Source: Unum

On top of the implications health and safety initiatives have for attracting and retaining talent, these programs can also help employers reduce costs. Urban cited the CDC study mentioned above, which looked at employer costs associated with two chronic diseases (hypertension and diabetes) and three health risk factors (smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity).

Here are some significant findings from that study:

  • Absenteeism estimates ranged from 1 to 2 days per individual per year depending on the risk factor or chronic disease (these numbers increased with multiple conditions and/or factors).
  • Nationally, each risk factor or disease was associated with annual absenteeism costs of more than $2 billion.
  • Each year, employees with cardiovascular diseases cost their employer over a week in absences and $1,100 more on lost productivity than a healthy employee, on average.

What are Health and Safety Programs?

Given the severe ramifications that poor employee health can have on a business, the decision to implement wellness initiatives sounds like a no-brainer. What's not quite so obvious is how to implement effective initiatives. Before we get to that, let's start with some basic definitions:

  • Health/Wellness Programs: Cost-saving initiatives by employers to promote healthy behaviors, increase employee productivity, and reduce insurance costs. These programs are usually administered by the HR team from a "bottom-up" perspective, based on voluntary participation.
  • Safety Programs: Cost-saving initiatives by employers that are typically driven by government regulations and company mandates. Programs work to train, communicate, and encourage safe behaviors to reduce accidents and avoid hazards. These programs are usually administered from a "top-down" perspective.

Since the goals of each type of program are so similar, there’s naturally going to be some overlap between health/wellness initiatives and safety initiatives. This overlap typically means the programs could fall under the jurisdiction of several departments in your organization.

“In developing a plan for your organization, it’s crucial to remove department silos,” said Urban. “It requires the support of all departments. It can’t just be an HR initiative, or a wellness initiative, or a safety initiative. You need the support of all these groups to deliver the programs to your employees.”

How to Implement Health and Safety Initiatives

To overcome departmental silos and other obstacles, your organization must develop a strategic approach to implementing health and safety initiatives.

“It doesn’t matter if you call it a strategic plan or an operational plan, but you need to develop a plan that includes the key players and is written down,” Urban said.

Here are some critical components of a successful plan:

  • Developing an overall vision/mission, goals, and objectives.
  • Determining which interventions to implement.
  • Defining roles and responsibilities.
  • Charting an evolution strategy.
  • Preparing a communications plan — i.e., how you’re going to promote the initiative(s).
  • Evaluating the program’s impact.

If you’re looking to implement health and safety programs at your organization, here are a few tips we took away from Urban’s presentation to help you get started.

Determine the Type of Plan You Want to Create

“Don’t reinvent the wheel,” Urban said. “Pick one initiative and grow from there.”

One way to do this is to pick monthly, quarterly, and yearly themes to focus on and then develop programs to address those topics.

Use Health and Safety Holidays to Set Your Themes

There are several health- and safety-related holidays throughout the year that celebrate an array of topics and causes. Knowing the upcoming holidays allows you to be strategic about what you want to promote. Below, we offer several resources to help you keep track of those holidays.

Set SMART Goals

To get the most impact out of the programs, set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

Promote, Promote, Promote

It's crucial that your entire organization is aware of the programs for them to succeed. Make sure you involve all relevant departments in your planning and use the department heads and other leadership to get the word out about the programs. Also, develop communication tools like flyers to make sure every employee has a chance to learn about the initiatives.

Resources for Implementing a Plan

Here are some helpful resources to help you implement health and safety initiatives for your organization.

About the Webinar

This presentation was part of CRI’s Risk Control Webinar Series — regular installments of webinars to educate the group captive members we work with on topics like workplace safety, organizational leadership, and company performance. The thoughts and opinions expressed in these webinars are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect CRI’s positions on any of the above topics.

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