“Safety is not optional”This is a quote I heard from a safety manager at a manufacturing factory and he is absolutely correct, “safety is not optional”. But, what is safety and what does workplace safety look like to you?
Let’s take a second and think about workplace safety, what comes to your mind?
Do you think of wearing safety glasses, reading through material data safety sheets, or maybe even workplace safety videos you watched during orientation? All of these items are an important part of workplace safety and what is traditionally thought of when we think of workplace safety tips. You see, safety is traditionally focused on actively changing or modifying the work environment to decrease the risk of accidents and oftentimes reactionary. For example, a manager might see rising costs from workers’ compensation claims and try different tactics to lower those costs.
In addition to support from a safety team and company leaders, overseeing bodies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ensure safety procedures are in place and followed. All of this buy-in and support play a role in the statement that, “safety is not optional”. Overall, a good safety program helps save a company money, but most importantly it helps employees go home safe to their family and friends every day.
“Wellness is optional”. This a quote from that same safety manager who was quoted above. He said these two quotes when talking about funding for a stretch program. He concluded that if they take the program under safety it would be easier to get funding from top-level leaders versus if they take it under wellness. This brings the question, what is wellness?
Take a second and think about workplace wellness, what comes to your mind?
Does wearing a Fitbit and obsessing over your steps, a weight loss competition you won a few years ago, or even the biometric screening you had to go through come to mind? Traditionally, wellness programs are focused on improving the health of the organization by focusing on their people.
Unlike safety programs, wellness falls more on the employee to do the work and change. Basically, a company may say we will provide you with these resources, but it is up to you to take advantage of those. As mentioned by the funding dilemma, wellness does not always have the same support from top-level leaders as safety. Overall, a good wellness program helps save a company money, but most importantly it helps employees go home safe to their family and friends every day.
Did you notice something similar about the ultimate goal of a good safety and wellness program?
If safety and wellness programs have they have the same goal, why don’t we see more collaboration to achieve that goal? For example, if a company has a large number of soft tissue workers’ compensation claims they may turn to their safety team for a solution. That team may look at workstation ergonomic solutions, which would absolutely help, but why not also look at helping employees’ bodies move better and pain-free.
Health plays a role in safety as well. Research looked at a link between waist circumference and soft tissue injuries and found that, “soft tissue injuries drop in concordance with a decrease in waist circumference for workers.” In the above example, the company looking to decrease soft tissue claims could look to implement a stretch or work conditioning program, alongside of ergonomic changes. If we are able to take that industrial athlete and prepare their body to handle the physical requirements of their job and provide education on healthy behavior, they will have less risk of an injury long-term.
As we see obesity rates climb and physical activity rates decline throughout the nation, a growing number of industrial athletes are entering the workforce not physically capable to meet the requirements of their job. With that said, we are going to see more musculoskeletal disorders, lower morale and more stress. The ultimate goal in mind would be these programs working together to maximize the impact they can have on employee lives.
At WellFit we work with you to find the right combination of health and safety that will maximize the positive impact on your employees. If you are interested to learn more about how safety and health could work together for you, please contact us. We would be happy to sit down with you to learn about your company and see how we can help you.
- Silliker, Amanda. “Is It Time to Marry Safety and Wellness?” Canadian Occupational Safety, 13 Aug. 2018, cos-mag.com/occupational-hygiene/37529-is-it-time-to-marry-safety-and-wellness/.