By KAREN NEOH
Investment in the health, safety and wellbeing of employees has increasingly been acknowledged as integral parts in building employee engagement, as well as the economic sustainability and organisational development of enterprises.
In economic terms, the ILO (International Labour Office) estimates that more than 4% of the world’s annual GDP is lost due to occupational accidents and diseases, with 313 million suffering non-fatal accidents, and more than 160 million people suffering from occupational and work-related diseases annually.
In addition, one must consider the indirect costs of each incident, impact on families and consequential societal costs.
Barefoot Economics, The Economics of Health, Safety and Well-being, a publication by the Department for Occupational Safety and Health of the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health with ILO Safework programme aims to provide information on costs and benefits of the development of work environments and by doing so, encourage behaviour which will develop the safety and health level of the organisations.
Figure 1: Direct and indirect costs of occupational accidents (adapted from Barefoot Economics, The Economics of Health, Safety and Well-being by the Department for Occupational Safety and Health of the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health with ILO Safework programme).
Over the years, studies have shown that ergonomic interventions at the workplace result in positive financial returns for organisations in some sectors.
In a review of recent studies, the Institute of Work and Mental Health of Canada found that participatory ergonomics programmes in which workers, supervisors and other workplace parties jointly identify and address work-related risks can be beneficial (to both employees and the organisation).
In a clothing manufacturer with 295 workers, there was a net benefit to the company of almost C$295,000 (approximately RM858,000); and for a car parts manufacturer with 195 employees, a savings of C$244,000 (approximately RM710,000).
Several studies demonstrate a positive relationship between company workplace practices and business success.
These studies highlight workplace policies that demonstrate respect for employees’ basic requirements:
- good external working conditions.
- job security.
- good relations between management and workers.
- fair pay and employee motivation.
Productivity and operational efficiency
To improve productivity and operational efficiency, organisations should work towards creating an open and innovative working climate that nurtures employee engagement.
In addition to delivering on its employee value proposition, if an organisation can empower its employees and encourage them to create and share knowledge on improving efficiency, it can increase safety and productivity, and ultimately business performance.
Figure 2: Safe workplace and its benefits for the work organisation (adapted from Barefoot Economics)
As with our personal health, we have an obligation to ourselves and to our co-workers to take charge of our (collective) health destinies.
Speaking up and calling out unsafe and unhealthy practices, and then suggesting countermeasures demonstrate an employee’s commitment and value to the organisation.
And vice versa of course, leaders have to also commit to taking action to ensure a good working environment for all.
Related article: Ergonomic Checkpoints
Karen is really energised when speaking to business leaders who see the light (that bright natural daylight!) and take steps to invest in their people holistically. Drop us a line or two in the comment box below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Consulting Corner articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 28 February 2015