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Addressing the (Many) Issues of Today’s American Workforce

Diverse Construction Workforce

Occupational safety and health professionals have a lot on their plates when it comes to managing the potential hazards that can harm their workers. Protecting the company’s bottom line and maintaining productivity and efficiency are obvious motives for this concern, but ask any company with high workers’ compensation costs and they’ll tell you that the workers’ compensation and other costs can really begin to add up.

So when all of these big-picture discussions come into play, many professionals in the industry have themselves asking the same question: “Where do I begin?”

Perhaps one of the most popular buzz topics in the industry today is the state of America’s workforce. Unfortunately for the employers out there, the state of U.S. workers is defined by a number of issues.

“Employees that have multiple health conditions have much greater days of productivity loss per year,” says Dr. Ronald Loeppke, M.D. of U.S. Preventive Medicine.

The “multiple health conditions” facing today’s workforce include the recent spikes in obesity rates, heart and cardiovascular disease, deconditioned muscles and the increased average age of the American worker.

All of these potential conditions may seem overwhelming and almost as part of the proverbial circle of life. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assure employers that changing these trends is indeed a possible and accomplishable feat, but only after company leadership teams join the quest for truly understanding the obstacles that are currently in the way.

“Explaining the distribution of health and disease exclusively in terms of risk factors only partly addresses the health of the workforce,” according to Paul Schulte, PhD and Sudha Pandalai, MD, PhD of the CDC. “There is still a need to understand other factors that may play a role in the health of the workforce, including social, economic, cultural, political and environmental variables.”

Unfortunately, there is a wealth of companies who are continuing with business as usual and falling behind the curve of those employers who wish to proactively prevent these issues from delivering costly claims.

“While the U.S. trends are not good, those employers who have begun measuring these health risk behaviors in their workforce and implementing programs to address them appear to be seeing some improvement,” says Julie Shook of Thomson Reuters.

With giants in the industry pushing claims to the benefits of addressing these issues proactively, it may come as a shock to some that companies are continuing with the traditional ways of workplace health and safety. The CDC, along with other experts in the industry, will likely remain pushing these concepts until they catch on in a bigger scale.

“There is a growing body of evidence on the effectiveness of workplace interventions for occupational outcomes and personal factors,” add Schulte and Pandalai. “Ultimately, consideration of the totality of the health of the workforce is a prescription for better health and well-being of the nation.”

Many employers are likely hesitant to act because of the fear of the workforce’s willingness to participate in these programs. The good news is that participation in these programs often exceeds company expectations by a long shot, and our clients that utilize the Employee Maintenance Center on-site have had little trouble engaging employees in their efforts.

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