Manufacturers Keep Employees Healthy and On the Job

Diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes in the United States are skyrocketing. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reported a total of 29.1 million people, or 9.3% of the population, have diabetes. Undiagnosed diabetic Americas are 8.1 million people (27.8% of people with diabetes are undiagnosed). The consequences of this disease are catastrophic, resulting in heart failure, strokes, blindness, severe neuropathies, and death.

Manufacturers are considering the very real possibility of 10% of their workforce dying or being permanently incapacitated within the next five years. The impact on the workforce, the company, cannot be overstated. This is not hyperbole.

Manufacturers are actively engaging employee health awareness, education, and training to combat the ravages of diabetes. While a benevolent concept, caring for employees, manufacturers recognize that replacing the current trained and skilled workforce is nearly impossible (as more than one million manufacturing jobs are currently unfilled in the U.S. economy). Manufacturers recognize that engaging employees to better (healthier) behavior patterns is the only way to retain the best and brightest current employees.

Manufacturers paying costly health insurance premiums for employees know there is a financial impact on reducing the number of diabetic employees and ensuring that borderline diabetics reverse the impending likelihood of the disease.

KK Giese and PF Cook recently published research for the National Institute of Health about reducing obesity among employees of a manufacturing plant: translating the Diabetes Prevention Program to the workplace. The substantial data revealed that obesity affects individuals physically and emotionally, contributing to direct and indirect employer costs. Targeted obesity interventions through the Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Core Curriculum offered at the worksite could promote healthy lifestyle decisions resulting in weight improvement among overweight and obese employees. A pretest-posttest design was used to evaluate changes in weight and body mass index among Diabetes Prevention Program participants; they achieved statistically significant changes in body weight. As a process measure, Diabetes Prevention Program session attendance moderately correlated with weight. Many health care professionals, including occupational health nurses, can implement evidence-based worksite obesity interventions to support employee weight loss.

The American Journal of Epidemiology reported an association between Body Mass Index and Acute Traumatic Workplace Injury in Hourly Manufacturing Employees. Lead researcher Keshia M. Pollack, is affiliated with the Department of Health Policy and Management, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.

In this study, the authors examined the distribution and odds of occupational injury among hourly employees of a US aluminum manufacturing company by body mass index (weight (kg)/height (m)2). Height and weight data on 7,690 workers at eight plants were extracted from medical records from annual physicals, and body mass index was categorized. Information on traumatic injuries recorded was obtained from a company injury surveillance system. Twenty-nine percent of the employees (n = 2,221) sustained at least one injury. Approximately 85% of injured workers were classified as overweight or obese. The odds of injury in the highest obesity group as compared with the ideal body mass index group were 2.21 (95% confidence interval: 1.34, 3.53), after adjustment for sex, age, education, smoking, physical demands of the job, plant process and location, time since hire, time in the job, and significant interaction terms. Injuries to the leg or knee were especially prevalent among members the very obese group. Research findings support an association between body mass index and traumatic workplace injuries among manufacturing employees. Workplace safety personnel might consider adding policies or programs that address weight reduction and maintenance as part of ongoing comprehensive workplace safety strategies.

Worker Health Strategies Drive Employee Engagement

Bill Sims Jr. reported in EHS Today that the real goal is building a team that pursues perfection and approaches zero at-risk behaviors. Manufacturers need employee engagement at its highest form: commitment.

As manufacturers’ struggle with the skills gap, workforce shortage pressures are made more acute by stubborn low job engagement among existing employees. When manufacturers show a commitment to supporting an employee’s health (including weight management and reduction in diabetes) an emotional bond is established according to Gabrielle Caputo, Americas product manager for the manufacturing and logistics markets for global staffing provider Kelly Services, who has 15 years of experience in workforce development and employee engagement. Caputo says manufacturers can start engaging their staffs by building up their “employer brand.” “Employer brand denotes how people feel about their employer,” Caputo defined. “The employer brand should instill a sense of value, pride, and excitement.”

What workers associate with an organization is dependent on how effectively the employer makes itself as a desirable place to work, or as Caputo calls it, the employee value proposition. This includes providing an innovative and stimulating work environment, learning and career opportunities, and a good work-life balance. The SHRM calls it the “total rewards package,” or the benefits and aspects of a job other than compensation that are crucial to job satisfaction.

People Driven Performance recognizes that this worker health initiative is not a one-time training or immediate fix. It requires constant reinforcement and support.  The results are dramatic: higher retention levels of healthier employees, a lower absenteeism rate, lower health insurance premiums, and a symbiotic appreciation of fully engaged manufacturers and employees.

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