By: Nicole Chaudet
Worker safety is now an on-the-job priority—most companies, across all industries, have realized this throughout 2019. And, more organizations are also realizing the fact that a proactive approach to injury prevention and treatment demonstrates a strong commitment to employee wellbeing. And they should—according to the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds.
While these injuries obviously have a negative effect on employees, they can also significantly impact a company’s productivity. Workplace injuries often mean lost work days and lost production days. Regardless of the setting—whether it’s a manufacturing or office environment—employers increasingly recognize that addressing the work and non-work-related physical capabilities of employees optimizes their workforce and lowers the cost of injury and illness. It is good for the bottom line.
Given that backdrop, I’m starting to see a few different workplace safety trends emerge for 2020. Based on my collaborations with industry peers and what I’ve seen in client locations throughout the country, here are three key trends I envision playing out significantly in 2020.
Trend #1: Safety professionals continue to wear more “hats”
Gone are the days where safety professionals have one or two areas of focus or accountability. A continued trend for 2020 is that safety professionals will wear many “hats.” With streamlining and downsizing now increasingly common, and workplaces rapidly evolving, the days of safety specialization in a single category (fire, security, environmental, etc.) have become a thing of the past.
Instead, safety professionals are now tasked with multiple responsibilities and are more generalized in their respective approaches. The important opportunity for our industry is to steer safety professionals toward tools and resources that they can integrate into the workplace and help improve worker lives.
Trend #2: A more holistic approach to health and wellbeing
We have seen a substantial shift within the industry toward a more comprehensive approach to wellbeing that goes beyond physical health. The National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOSH) outlines a Total Worker Health concept, which has proven helpful for Health Fitness and many other companies alike. The concept is a holistic approach to employee wellbeing that integrates safety and health protection with injury and illness. This multi-faceted approach includes social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions of health.
The concept of Total Worker Health takes a broad view of worker wellbeing and encourages a more proactive approach to overall health and wellness. Looking ahead, this standard will be increasingly adopted by employers seeking ways to truly care for their employees.
Trend #3: High tech AND high-touch
Health is personal. When it comes to their own wellbeing, employees seek a highly personalized experience. In some cases, this includes technology as a means to increase personalization. This is especially poignant within injury prevention and treatment programs. And as the workplace becomes more diverse and adapts to economic and regulatory factors, I expect that the need, and the demand, for personalization will continue well into the future.
For instance, one large manufacturing company was facing past and present challenges with sprain and strain injuries among new hires. It was adding a third shift at one of its production sites. In planning for this addition, its goal was to reduce the incidence of these musculoskeletal disorders. A solution to the problem was implementing a “high-touch” approach featuring seven full-time associates that seamlessly integrated with union leadership, operations supervisors and onsite medical staff.
These onsite safety professionals conducted work conditioning programs, lineside coaching and First Aid and early intervention. This individualized and high-touch approach yielded significant results, decreasing sprains and strains and immediately positively impacting production.
The bottom line is this: educating yourself, leaders and clients on these important employee safety trends now can set the building blocks in place for optimal safety and wellbeing success in 2020.
Nicole Chaudet is the executive director, product execution, with HealthFitness , a Trustmark company. She is charged with leading the team that takes new products, services and product enhancements to market. She has been delivering employee wellbeing programs and solutions, both on-site and in a consultative role, for more than 20 years. She has served in several roles at HealthFitness, including program manager, fitness operations and regional director.