Effects of Wellness Programs in the Workplace: Workers' Comp
PolicyWire By AmTrust
There's been a lot of buzz about corporate wellness programs lately, with many studies confirming the success of these programs. Optum Health* found that 80% of employers expect their health and wellness program spending to increase in the coming years.
Employers are seeing a connection between happy, healthier employees and an increase in retention. There is also an improvement in productivity with reduced absenteeism and sickness. Employers are even reporting reductions in health care costs.
Can Wellness Programs Impact Workers' Compensation Claims?
Industry experts say wellness programs can, and do, reduce workers' compensation claims, with one study showing effective wellness programs lead to an average of a 30% decrease in workers' compensation and disability management claims.
By increasing retention, employees who are trained and competent are likely to have fewer injuries than newly hired and inexperienced staff. Healthier employees injured on the job can also recover faster resulting in fewer days off work.
What is a Wellness Program?
The types of employee wellness programs vary per size of the business, with most companies focusing on teaching their employees how to make healthy lifestyle choices. These programs encourage workers to stay healthy by offering preventative screenings, health and stress management programs, on-site fitness centers, yoga classes, healthy snacks and more.
Lauren Reese, Wellbeing Manager at AmTrust describes AmTrust's wellbeing program, “AmTrust's well-being program uses a holistic model that considers five key dimensions of an individual's health and happiness. This model helps employees proactively measure and address risks in each area. Our model also prioritizes employee connection to each other and to the organization. As a result, employees feel more engaged at work and in their everyday life because the whole-person is supported. This creates healthy and happy employees, drives productivity, boosts morale, reduces absenteeism and aids in quicker recovery when accidents do occur.”
Health Issues That Can Impact Workers' Compensation Costs
The top three health issues that can have a negative impact on workers' compensation claims, costs, injury rates and the length of recovery are:
• Obesity: Obese workers tend to file twice as many claims as those who are not obese and miss 13 more days of work due to their injuries. The common workplace injuries associated with obesity was pain or inflammation, sprain or strain from falls, slips, lifting or exertion. • Diabetes: Diabetes is closely tied to obesity, as it is a common condition for those who are obese. Diabetes can result in vision loss, kidney damage, and poor wound healing, which is a concern if an employee requires surgery. • Smoking: Smokers have a higher risk of fractures, and these fractures take longer to heal. Smoking is also associated with a higher risk of lower back pain and rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals who smoke have a 30-40% greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.
The good news is that obesity, diabetes and smoking are health problems that can be addressed through a comprehensive employee wellness program.
Corporate Wellness and Safety Programs
An organization's human resources and risk management teams should work together to create an overall company wellness program that considers both employee wellness and workplace safety requirements. Companies who focus on prevention from an employee's first day with a wellness and safety program can help reduce the number of injuries, illnesses and costs related to preventable diseases.
Matt Zender, senior vice president and workers' compensation product manager at AmTrust agrees, “Employers that enforce safety procedures and regulations, provide safety training, education and occupational health programs create an environment of employee loyalty.”
OSHA has said companies should approach safety and wellness together since the two are connected. Safety programs are generally implemented with a top-down approach, while wellness programs operate on a bottom-up approach. When both programs are implemented in tangent, the two can promote healthy and safe behaviors and potentially reduce insurance costs, prevent injuries and decrease illness. These programs also help influence the success of transitional duty and return-to-work programs. A Workplace Wellness Grant Program (WWGP) in Ohio has been helping small to mid sized companies integrate their occupational safety and health programs with workplace wellness programs. The four year program will track the progress of integration and it's impact on workers' compensation claims.
With consumers becoming more adept at navigating the digital landscape, the use of technology to engage employees in wellness programs is booming, especially among large employers. A growing number of employers are offering online walking challenges, devices to track activity levels and health-related text alerts and apps. According to NCCI, some companies are testing these types of devices to see it if can improve employee safety by monitoring motions, tracking activities and physical capabilities and alerting the worker of potential hazards.
Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.