Increase Employee Wellness in Construction
By Kevan Orvitz, Construction Executive
Construction is an extremely demanding job, physically and mentally. Workers are required to use their bodies, often pushing themselves to lift heavy materials that can cause strain. Surprisingly, health and wellness are rarely discussed despite the construction field’s reliance on healthy, capable and physically fit workers. Instead, workplace wellness programs are popular in sedentary jobs that require much less physical exertion. In the construction industry, it is time to address these critical topics and ensure that all construction workers have greater access to health and wellness resources.
In 2016, the private construction industry was accountable for more than 21 percent of worker fatalities, according to OSHA. That’s an astounding statistic, translating to one in five worker deaths occurring in construction. Out of these devastating events, falls contributed more 38 percent to the death toll. Although typically categorized as safety hazards, slips, trips and falls are detrimental to workers’ health and wellness. Successful health and wellness programs not only address rest, recuperation and prevention, but they reinforce safety protocols in a more meaningful manner.
GET THE CONVERSATION STARTED
The construction industry faces unique obstacles in the health and wellness field because, unlike white collar industries, construction sites are transient, moving workers to various locations. Construction workers might complete the same repetitive movements and tasks, but throughout different jobsites. Most of their work requires walking, moving or standing for long periods of time and includes lifting heavy of equipment and materials.
The mobile nature of workers and the jobsite furthers the importance of a health and wellness discussion among employers and employees. The best way to start a conversation about health and wellness in the construction industry is to conduct a workplace health assessment across various jobsites.
Employers face increasing health costs due to injury and illness and can reduce insurance claims and boost morale by developing a comprehensive health and wellness program for the workplace. Even if a company has a program in place, they may want to address the level of success that the wellness program is bringing to employees. Currently, 56 percent of employers feel that their health and wellness programs are positively impacting the lifestyle of their employees, according to a report by Willis Towers Watson. However, only 32 percent of their employees agree.
This disconnect between the employer’s perception and the employee’s reality often lies in a lack of communication. Gathering information from employees across various work sites gives businesses the opportunity to implement meaningful changes and improvements to their health and wellness program. Conducting a health and wellness assessment gets workers involved in the discussion while providing the company with a more accurate picture of the health of their employees.
EDUCATE THE TEAM
A workplace wellness program is not going to succeed without a motivated, successful or healthy workforce. If current participation in wellness initiatives is low, a lack of awareness and education may be responsible. One way to get employees actively engaged in the health and wellness discussion is by hosting seminars, speakers and health instructors that can use their talents and wisdom to encourage more discussion and create greater opportunities for health and fitness in the company.
Bringing health and wellness experts into the program can reinvigorate health and wellness efforts, inspiring employees to try new exercises, workouts and stretches. For example, starting a group yoga or pilates class can help workers strengthen supportive muscles they rarely use. Having a physical therapist hold a seminar about preventative healthy stretches can start a great discussion about how workers can properly use their bodies on jobsites to reduce the risk of injury.
PROMOTE PREVENTATIVE CARE
Starting a health and wellness program may initially feel like a large financial investment. However, taking a closer look at current burdensome costs, such as skyrocketing insurance claims in the construction industry, it is clear that best investment is providing construction workers with the physical support they deserve and require.
In the construction industry, older workers are viewed as an asset because they are seen as reliable, steady and dedicated. They also have tremendous respect from younger workers and their employers. However, this same demographic often struggles the most with safety regulations, speed and training, according to a Science Direct article.
Promoting preventive health and wellness initiatives benefits the aging workforce, keeping them healthier and more active on the job and at home. Not only do wellness programs engage this older group of workers that is susceptible to health risks, but they also influence the behavior of their younger colleagues.
Instead of reacting to workers suffering from job-related injury and illness, workplace wellness programs allow employers to be proactive and prevent these events from happening. Workers that become injured or ill on the job are forced to take time off work, a costly loss for the employer and employee. Some examples of preventative care include blood pressure screenings, nutrition counseling, office flu vaccinations and starting an insole program.
Offering an insole program provides construction workers with constant foot, leg and back support. Anti-fatigue insoles with dual layer memory foam offer continued shock absorption, while lowering pain and fatigue. In addition to providing workers with comfort on the job, an insole program may help reduce slips, trips and falls, which are accountable for absenteeism and injuries.
A STEP TOWARD BETTER HEALTH
Starting a health and wellness program in the construction industry has the ability to keep workers on their feet, working for many more years to come. Assessing and creating an engaging environment for employees maximizes all safety, wellness and health care efforts, and budgets. Strengthening a company’s wellness program with preventative measures, such as blood pressure screenings and insole programs, reduces health care costs and prevents absenteeism caused by injury and illness. When construction employers put their worker’s health and wellness first they create a workplace culture of engagement, productivity and care, while simultaneously reducing health care costs and increasing their ROI and productivity.