Choosing Leading Indicators for Occupational Health and Wellness

March 19, 2019
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

EHS professionals talk frequently about safety leading indicators that aim to reduce incidents and injuries. Just last week we published a blog post on how to choose the right safety leading indicators. But what about leading indicators specific to occupational health and wellness, i.e. the “H” part of EHS?

A Healthier Workforce Leads to a Healthier Bottom Line

According to research, organizations with healthy employees also achieve better business performance. In fact, a Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine study has found that companies with excellent environment, safety and health (EHS) programs outperformed the S&P 500 by three to five percent.

Worker illnesses have major financial impacts on an organization’s bottom line. The CDC and National Institutes of Health estimate that productivity losses due to personal or family health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or about $225.8 billion annually. Occupational health issues may also be related to the 55,000 fatalities from work-related injuries and illnesses recorded each year. Given these statistics, it makes sense to look at leading indicators for occupational health and wellness.

Suggested Leading Indicators

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion runs the Healthy People 2020 program to improve health in the U.S. through education and targeted health initiatives. Healthy People 2020 has been tracking leading indicators for health and wellness since 2011, and encourages employers to use these for evaluating their own occupational health and wellness programs. Some of the indicators that are the most applicable to the workplace are related to access to health services, preventative services, and use of benefits:

  • Percentage of workers with health insurance
  • Percentage of workers with a primary care provider
  • Percentage of workers getting preventative screenings recommended for their age bracket
  • Number and types of healthcare claims filed
  • Amount paid out in workers compensation

In addition, a Campbell Institute research on leading indicators highlights the importance of having indicators that tell an organization how well their safety management system is working. What if we apply the same principle to occupational health and wellness? Here are some suggestions for leading indicators:

  • Number of sites/locations where health and wellness activities are offered
  • Participation rate in health and wellness activities
  • Rate of completion of health and wellness activities/challenges
  • Total incentives paid or offered to workers for participating in health and wellness activities
  • Percentage of workers expressing satisfaction with health and wellness programs

Leading indicators for occupational health and wellness like the ones listed above help to evaluate how employees respond to health and wellness activities, and can give direction on how to spend time and resources.

Tracking leading indicators for occupational health and wellness, and leading indicators for safety ensures that your EHS program is comprehensive, which leads to a healthier and safer workforce and organization.

Finally, be sure to have the right software tools to help you improve occupational health and wellness. Using a single, integrated EHS platform with functionality for occupational health, industrial hygiene, ergonomics, and incident management ensures that the same data is leveraged for different processes, and that the user experience is the same across the board.

It also helps to “connect the dots” in many ways. For example, incidents due to ergonomic issues can be captured and analyzed, and ergonomic risk assessments can be launched, all through the same platform. Likewise, illnesses due to chemical agents can be reported and analyzed, and qualitative and quantitative exposure assessments can be launched. Also, the costs of incidents can be better evaluated by tracking medical treatments received by employees following specific incidents.

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Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader