EU OSHA: Workplace Health Promotion Improves Productivity, Well-Being

Aug. 11, 2010
As part of its Workplace Health Promotion project, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) is sending the following message to employers: workplace health promotion (WHP) leads to better health, reduced absenteeism, enhanced motivation and improved productivity.

According to EU-OSHA, employers have an important role to play in encouraging workers to adopt healthy lifestyles. In addition to the health benefits for workers, every Euro invested in WHP leads to a return on investment of between 2,5-4,8 Euros due to reduced absenteeism costs.

According to EU-OSHA Director Jukka Takala, “supporting a healthy lifestyle pays off for everyone. It benefits employees themselves and their employers, but it also helps the wider society, by reducing the burden on healthcare systems. And with an aging working population, the importance of workplace health promotion schemes is only going to increase – we need to help people stay healthier for longer, and to achieve this we need employers and employees to work together to create a healthy working culture.”

Safety First

While health promotion measures support workplace risk prevention, they do not replace proper safety and health management. There is no point in implementing a WHP program without also offering a safe and healthy working environment, EU-OSHA explained. WHP is based on a healthy culture first.

When carrying out WHP activities, both organizational and individual level factors should be taken into account. Many European companies have WHP programs in place, ranging from encouraging workers to improve their diet (by including low-fat options in work cafeterias, for example) to providing training for managers to recognize stress symptoms in their employees and so they can appropriate action.

Dundee City Council in the U.K., for example, has been working to improve the psychological and physical health of staff in its Social Work Department. Initiatives have included organizational level actions, such as family-friendly policies, as well as individual level measures such as the provision of a confidential employee counseling service and subsidized “slimming club” membership. The scheme has already led to an improvement in the health of employees, with an estimated 165,000 Euros being saved in sickness absence every year through a reduction in stress, anxiety and musculoskeletal problems.

EU-OSHA recently launched a new Web portal on WHP that includes two new fact sheets providing an overview and advice to employers and workers. Suggestions range from ways to create a supportive working environment to providing information, ideas and encouragement on health matters, such as giving up smoking. The portal also includes good practice resources such as useful links and case studies.

For more information, please see http://osha.europa.eu/en/topics/whp.

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