Connecting Safety, Health & Wellbeing. An integrated approach to Occupational Health
The workplace has a significant impact on people's health and wellbeing. As such, employee wellbeing goes far beyond just minimising health issues and health-related absences. A healthy and happy workforce tends to be more engaged and more productive and is essential in building a successful business. Promoting health and wellbeing at work can help create such a positive working environment and helps your employees be successful not only at work – but also in their private lives
How do we define Health and Wellbeing?
Health and wellbeing can be described as the achievement and maintenance of physical fitness and mental stability. There is a two-way relationship between wellbeing and health: health influences wellbeing and wellbeing itself influences health. Generally, both physical health and mental health can influence wellbeing.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines “mental health” as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. On the other side “wellbeing” (according to the Oxford Dictionary) is the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy.
Bringing those two together, the overall sense of wellness will not be achieved without having a balance in these key elements:
Physical: including lifestyle choices that affect the functioning of our bodies. What we eat and how active we are will affect our physical wellbeing.
Emotional or psychological: this is our ability to cope with everyday life and reflects how we think and feel about ourselves.
Social: the extent that we feel a sense of belonging and social inclusion. The way we communicate with others, our relationships, values, beliefs, lifestyles and traditions are all important factors of social wellbeing.
Spiritual: the ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life. Achieved through being connected to our inner self, to nature or even a greater power.
Intellectual: it is important to gain and maintain intellectual wellness as it helps us to expand our knowledge and skills in order to live an enjoyable and successful life.
Economic: in short, economic wellness is our ability to meet our basic needs and feel a sense of security.
Why is Health and Wellbeing important?
Mental health is essential to the overall wellbeing and is as important as physical health. When individuals feel mentally well, they can work productively, enjoy free time, and contribute actively to communities.
Improved health and wellbeing (physical and mental) is important and beneficial for the following reasons:
- Improved immune system response.
- Individuals gets a higher pain tolerance.
- Slows progression of diseases e,g. coronary heart disease and cancer.
- Increases life expectancy.
- Is associated with positive health behaviours and good lifestyle choices.
- Is associated with broader positive outcomes and increased productivity.
- Influences the wellbeing and mental health of those close to us.
- Reduction in sickness absences or presenteeism at work.
How can Employers support Health and Wellbeing?
Employers partner with Occupational Health providers who can support a broad variation of health and wellbeing services to ensure employees are kept healthy and safe – both physically and mentally. The provision of Occupational Health Services usually includes employee education and support. E.g. wellbeing days and health promotion or group sessions on various health and wellbeing topics. In addition, wellbeing services like Counselling services, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Physiotherapy etc can be provided. Other support services may include sickness absence management, medical referrals and medical surveillance.
The Importance of Health and Wellbeing in a Safety Critical Environment
A healthy workplace contributes to a healthy workforce for a better business delivery.
There is a direct connection between poor health and wellbeing and the risk this may pose in safety critical environments2. Where a worker’s health and wellbeing is compromised, and is working in a safety critical environment, this can result in injuries to the individual and others, lost productivity, higher labour turnover, increased insurance costs and reduced morale.
Physical health promotion is essential and has shown to result in good health benefits – while lack of good physical health may lead to injuries, e.g. obesity is one of the major contributors to back injuries when in working in safety critical environments (the mechanics of the body can be restricted).
Mental health and wellbeing symptoms and condition such as stress, anxiety and depression contribute to poor concentration, reduced memory, reduced assertiveness, poor decision-making, increased errors and ultimately injuries when working in a safety critical environment.
Inadequate sleep and fatigue also directly reduce concentration levels and the ability to work safely in a safety critical environment.
Health and wellbeing challenges in a safety critical environment
Health and wellbeing challenges can arise in safety critical environments whenever there is occupational exposure e.g. ergonomic issues, heat stress, high noise levels, chemicals, respiratory and skin irritants. In such cases, maintaining health and wellbeing becomes a challenge to a worker (or workers), especially if the safety risks are not controlled or where engineering solutions are exhausted.
Partnering with Abbott to overcome health and wellbeing challenges in your workforce.
Occupational health services can have a major effect in preventing ill health through work and in ensuring employees are able to return to work as early as possible after a period of sickness.
We can partner with you to identify solutions customised to your business needs, e.g. provision of workplace and ergonomic assessments where necessary, advise on early occupational health referrals in order to resolve health and wellbeing issues at an early stage, encouraging management to consider job rotation, working closely with you regarding health promotion and provide ongoing support through our dedicated occupational health team.
To identify issues before they create a safety and health problem for your employees we can recommend on environmental and hygiene checks, e.g. noise checks, air quality checks – these will ensure that the work environment is safe.
Supporting your workers in a safety critical environment we provide industry-standard medicals to ensure health issues can be identified early and appropriate advice, recommendations and referrals are completed to help you and your workers can define how to best balance the workers’ health and wellbeing with work.